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GOP Rule-Wrangling During Davis Filibuster Draws Fire

Photo: Photos by Mary Tuma, License: N/A

Photos by Mary Tuma

The “unruly mob” watched as GOP lawmakers defeated decorum in their own way.

Photo: Thousands of pro-choice supporters have swarmed the Capitol for both special sessions., License: N/A

Thousands of pro-choice supporters have swarmed the Capitol for both special sessions.

“What we know is that Republicans are willing to break the rules to get this bill passed,” says Philip Martin, Progress Texas’ deputy director. “There’s at least a half-dozen rules of the Senate that were violated by Republicans to try and stop the Wendy Davis filibuster. It was perhaps the most audacious breach of conduct in the history of the Texas Senate.”

Martin added, “The rules were good enough for every other issue that came across the legislative agenda, so why is women’s health treated differently?”

Atop the procedural maneuvering on the floor, on more than one occasion Republicans successfully curbed the testimony of hundreds of citizens who wished to speak against (or in support of, for that matter) the bill during committee hearings.

“There is an unprecedented desire from the public to speak on this issue and the Republican leadership are denying them the chance — they control the process and want to shut down debate as quickly as possible,” said Martin. “It’s a historical opportunity for civic engagement in Texas and Republicans have said ‘we don’t want it and we don’t want to hear it’ no matter if you’re for or against the bill. And that’s a serious problem.”

In the long run, Republicans are going to win on this issue, predicts Kronberg, and that’s why the wrangling on the floor was essentially unnecessary. They never really needed to stop the Davis filibuster, since another attempt at getting the legislation rammed through was likely in the works. Instead, they might have been better served acting like statesmen, giving the Senator the floor out of respect and tackling the issue again during the inevitable second special session.

By acting out of line in the short-term, they’ve gained nothing except an image as underhanded from not only opponents on the other side of the aisle, but also from moderate Republicans, frustrated by the hyperfocus on social issues.

“When given a choice between being big and small, they chose to be small,” said Kronberg.

Perhaps in characterizing vocal citizens as an “unruly mob,” conservative Republicans aim to deflect from their own procedural breakdown and dissent from decorum. It’s apropos that the GOP criticize the public for unruliness, for disorder, for straying from tradition — after all, they seem to be the experts.

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