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Monday | May 12, 2003

Texas has the ballsiest Dems


In a spectacular show of force to prevent a GOP-backed redistricting bill from passing the Texas House, the vast majority of the state's Democrats (including some of its most conservative caucus members) have vanished into thin air.

The Texas House ground to a halt Monday as 53 Democratic members, scheming to block a planned vote on a congressional redistricting map drawn by Republicans, failed to show up.

House Speaker Tom Craddick, R-Midland, formally announced there is no quorum. The House voted on a motion to instruct House sergeants to look for "and arrest all absentees whose absence is not excused."

The move by absentee Democrats prevented the 150-member House from getting the 100 members needed to transact business.

"I don't think this is obstructionist behavior," said Tamara Bell, chief of staff for Rep. Jim Dunnam of Waco, chairman of the House Democratic caucus. "It is a group of members who believe in a principle and believe in a process. And this is their way of letting the public understand they are standing up for their beliefs [...]

The legislative session ends June 2, but Thursday is a key date, the final day the House can consider House measures that have not yet had a preliminary vote.

The redistricting bill is such a measure.

These missing legislators have all fled the state, ensuring they are beyond the reach of Texas law enforcement.

There is some concern as to whether the tactic may backfire. The last time quorum was broken, in 1979, the dissenters were greeted as heroes. Of course, that was a different Texas than today, so perhaps it's not too predictive.

In any case, the state house's leadership will need to make a decision -- whether to concede the issue to the Dems, and kill the re-redistricting shenanigans, or see all state business grind to a halt. Given that the state House leadership was never too enthusiastic about the bill (it was pushed hard by DeLay and Rove), it seems as though the outcome is no longer in doubt.

In either case, this is political theater at its finest.

(The Orange Report blog is bringing us the blow-by-blows of the saga. Charles Kuffner has more at the Political State Report.)

Update: Kuffner has posted a Q&A over at PSR.

Posted May 12, 2003 12:56 PM | Comments (64)


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