Posted by AzBlueMeanie:
Oh, good golly Miss Molly [Ivins], we sorely miss your wit and wisdom on the Texas Lege today.
Before a packed chamber and gallery, Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis began a dramatic filibuster Tuesday morning designed to block passage of a controversial and politically charged anti-abortion bill. Davis' filibuster to stop abortion bill continues:
Leaders in the GOP-controlled Senate who want the bill to pass said at mid-afternoon they were considering invoking a little-used rule to end the filibuster with a vote, a move that other Republicans had earlier vowed not to use. They planned to let Davis talk the day out — as long as she stays within the rules for such speeches, with no leaning on her desk or no pausing or straying off the subject.
[And no potty breaks.]
There was no immediate indication when the move might take place.
Davis said she intended to talk until midnight.
Davis’ filibuster could also kill two other important measures still pending: a transportation-funding resolution and a bill on the penalty for 17-year-olds who commit capital murder.
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst chose not to bring up those measures before Senate Bill 5, even though Democrats had said publicly they would lend the support needed to pass them. A Dewhurst spokesman has not responded to a request for comment.
If the measures do not pass, Dewhurst earlier said he expects that Gov. Rick Perry will call the Legislature back into a second special session. That did little to dissuade the vocal opposition from Democrats and others, including protesters who have packed the Capitol at various times since the House debate occurred on Sunday.
Wearing pink Mizuno tennis shoes, Davis began the filibuster at 11:18 a.m., when Dewhurst interrupted the author of Senate Bill 5, the anti-abortion bill, as he was explaining its provisions and asking the Senate to accept a tougher House-passed version that some GOP leaders believe will close most abortion clinics in Texas.
Dewhurst asked Davis if she intended to filibuster, as she had announced on Monday. She said yes, and immediately began talking in opposition to the bill.
As Davis entered the chamber before the debate began, she was cheered by dozens of protesters wearing orange t-shirts who were standing-room-only in the gallery. Dewhurst quickly admonished them that outbursts could get them ejected by state troopers stationed around the perimeter of the gallery.
Davis began her speech by blasting Dewhurst, Perry and other Republican leaders at the statehouse for using the special session to advance a political agenda at the cost of women’s health. Not only did the Senate allow the bill to be debated without the two-thirds support that is traditionally required, she said, but political ambitions of some leaders have taken priority over the best interests of Texas.
She called it “a raw abuse of power.”
“The reality of this bill is not to make women safer … it’s to force the closure of facilities across the state of Texas that would provide proper care to women,” Davis said.
“Partisanship and ambition are not unusual in a state capitol … (but) right here, in Texas, right now, it has risen to a level of profound irresponsibility and the raw abuse of power. The actions intended by our state’s leaders hurt Texas; they hurt Texas women and their families.”
* * *
For the first hour of Davis’ filibuster Tuesday, most senators — Republicans and Democrats — stayed in their seats listening to her remarks. They then began filtering out into the senators’ lounge to eat lunch, where several GOP senators said a strategy was being explored to stop Davis’ speech later today so SB 5 and the remaining bills can be passed.
In the seats ringing the Senate chamber floor sat an array of Texas House members: Democrats who unsuccessfully tried to stop passage of SB 5 on Sunday and Monday, and Republicans who strongly supported it. Both sides said they expect Perry will likely call lawmakers back into another special session if the bills die because of the filibuster.
Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, the chairman of Senate Democrats, said Davis, a mother of two and an outspoken advocate on women’s issues, led the filibuster because of her invovement in women’s health care.
“There’s an assault on women in this state and this legislation is a prime example of that,” Watson said. “It’s important that a woman who’s the mother of two daughters will be the one standing. We will all be there providing assistance and help.”
* * *
As Tuesday’s filibuster progressed, the gallery remained full — mostly with pro-choice supporters who oppose SB 5. Despite occasional outbursts and light applause as Davis read from letters from women who opposed SB 5, the crowd was mostly quiet.
What Sen. Wendy Davis is doing is difficult under the filibuster rules in Texas. I hope that she has the stamina to make it. You rock, Sen. Davis!
For those of you who want to follow the action, you can catch a Live stream at the Austin Statesman. http://www.statesman.com/
h/t photo Ricardo B. Braziell of the Austin Statesman