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Patrick will push to lower the Senate threshold for voting on bills

Completely unsurprising, except that I’d have thought he’d go all the way.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick announced Wednesday that he wants to lower the threshold of support legislation needs to make it on to the Senate floor to match the size of the new, smaller Republican majority. It’s the second time during his tenure that he’s sought such a change, which would allow Republicans to continue deciding which bills are brought up for consideration without Democratic input.

Patrick, who presides over the Senate, floated the idea in January, but until now, he has not spoken publicly about it since the November election. That’s when his party lost its supermajority in the upper chamber with the reelection defeat of Sen. Pete Flores, R-Pleasanton.

“Texans reaffirmed in the 2020 election that they support conservative candidates and conservative policies and I am committed to again moving a conservative agenda forward,” Patrick said in a statement.

Currently, Senate rules say 19 of the chamber’s 31 members — three-fifths — must agree to call up a bill for debate. Patrick said in the statement that he is recommending lowering that threshold to 18 senators, aligning with the size of the GOP majority heading into the legislative session that begins next month.

Patrick already oversaw a decrease in the threshold during his first session as lieutenant governor in 2015. The Senate began that session by dropping the threshold from two-thirds, or 21 members, to three-fifths, or 19 members, at a time when there were 20 Republican senators.

See here for the background. I guess we can call this the five-ninths rule, since 18/31 is greater than 5/9 but 17/31 is not. I really don’t know why Patrick wouldn’t just go to the logical conclusion and ditch the anti-majoritarian requirements altogether, which as you know would be my preferred approach, in hope/anticipation of a future Democratic Senate. Maybe that’s what’s holding him back, the belief that Dems will leave this bit of leverage for the Republicans when they finally win a sixteenth seat. I can’t say he’s wrong to take that bet, and as such I reiterate my position: Majorities should rule, even when I won’t like how they’ll rule. Especially at this point in our history, we really need to respect that idea.

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  1. blank says:

    I guess we can call this the five-ninths rule, since 18/31 is greater than 5/9 but 17/31 is not.

    Well, my math degree came in handy in this morning and decided that that 4/7 is the most reduced fraction we could use to describe Dan Patrick’s new Senate rule. Specifically 17/31 < 4/7 < 18/31.

  2. I can buy that. I just eyeballed it and came up with 5/9. I didn’t think about it any further once I confirmed that worked. But 4/7 is more aesthetically pleasing, since we went from a two in the numerator to a three, and now we will have four.

    It’ll be interesting to see how this is formally expressed, because you can imagine a scenario in which one D Senator and one R Senator are missing – do they still need 18 votes, or is 17 out of 29 enough? (17/29 is greater than both 5/9 and 4/7.) The way the story is phrased it sounds like Patrick’s rule would be “eighteen votes minimum”, but I doubt he’d be so short-sighted.

    (Also, too: if just one R Senator is missing, 5/9 < 17/30 < 4/7, so your fraction versus mine could potentially make a difference. I wonder if Dan Patrick has any math majors on his staff.)