If you’ve never seen mob rule in action, last night the Texas Senate was your chance.
Republicans and Democrats alike used tactics that exemplify why so many are inclined to disengage from political participation. Senate Bill 5, an omnibus abortion bill most notably limiting abortion to twenty weeks and regulating abortion providers, was the cause of the chaos. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves a bit.
With much left unaccomplished from the 83rd Regular Session, Gov. Rick Perry called a special session after legislators thought they had adjourned Sine Die. The key items on the call were first redistricting, then abortion, transportation funding and juvenile justice.
The Texas House and Senate were given ample time to work through these issues and come up with solutions, but of course, they spent many of those days doing one of the things they do best: waste time.
With the special session ending at midnight, all bills had to be voted on before then, or they would die.
While SB5 was in Texas’ lower chamber, House Leadership sat on the bill until the end of last week, and even refused to meet on Saturday (which is allowed) to debate and vote. Rather, Speaker Joe Straus and his Calendars Committee Chairman Todd Hunter waited until Sunday and allowed Democratic legislators to drag out the debate until almost 5 a.m. Monday morning.
Due to Senate Rules, this meant the bill could not be heard until Tuesday, which presented the opportunity for a filibuster by Senate Democrats.
Enter stage left: State Senator Wendy Davis.
The senator from Fort Worth made it well-known she planned to filibuster SB5 on Tuesday, thus effectively killing it, along with SJR 2 (infrastructure funding) and SB 23 (juvenile justice reform). With a gallery full of pro-abortion allies Sen. Davis began her filibuster at 11:18 a.m. on Tuesday and continued for almost 9 hours until it was ended by Lt. Gov. Dewhurst on procedural grounds.
Members cited Sen. Davis for violating Senate filibuster rules three times, two regarding germaneness and another in response to Sen. Davis receiving aid from a fellow Senator.
Throughout the day Tuesday, Lt. Gov. Dewhurst said any third violation would be put to a vote of the body to determine if the infraction was indeed warranted. Upon ruling that Sen. Davis had committed a third violation, Lt. Gov. Dewhurst failed to call for a vote and proceeded to leave the dais.
For the next hour, Senate Democrats and Republicans argued over semantics, with neither side taking into account the rules and procedures of the Senate. Despite what is being reported, members and motions from both sides were ignored.
At 11:45 p.m., Democrats ran out of the ability to stall any longer, and it appeared as though SB5 would be brought to a vote and passed.
That’s when the mob took over.
Liberals in the gallery began to chant and yell so loudly that Senators on the floor could not hear the instructions from the dais. Sen. Letcia Van de Putte encouraged them further, baselessly claiming she wasn’t being recognized by the chair because she’s a woman.
With midnight in sight, the crowd began to grow louder and louder, encouraged not only by the obvious confusion on the floor, but incited by Democrat senators, representatives, staffers and even members of the press .
Yes, you read that correctly, democratically elected officials were encouraging the breakdown of the democratic process because they didn’t support the inevitable outcome.
Senators eventually did vote on SB 5, but after midnight. Which means it didn’t count.
But that’s beside the point. No matter where you stand on SB 5, what transpired last night represents all that is wrong in governance. Democrat senators, knowing they didn’t have the votes to defeat the bill, resorted to mob rule rather than the Rule of Law.
We witnessed the “win at all costs” mentality that has become so prevalent in today’s political arena.
No rules. No honor. No civility.
So, who’s to blame? Simple, almost everyone.
In the House, Republicans are to blame for failing to stand up for conservative leadership at the beginning of the 83rd session. And House leadership is to blame for not pushing conservative reforms through in a timely manner.
The problem was not the filibuster, as that is a legitimate part of political discourse; but that opportunity never would have presented itself had Republican House leadership moved this bill through sooner. And they could have.
In the Senate, Republican leadership is to blame for not spiking the ball when they had the opportunity. And Democrats will have to own up to the fact that they disgustingly promoted the breakdown of civil discourse.
Politics is an ugly business. We all know this. But seeing the rules of the Senate tossed aside by both parties, and consequently encouraging lawlessness, was beyond disgusting.
At Empower Texans our mission is to engage voters and empower them to become active members in the politics and policies that impact their daily lives. Participation is vital.
But what transpired last night has no place in our legislative process. Those in the gallery and the legislators cheering them on put visceral desires over the principles and integrity of our representative government.
Those protesting the “lawlessness” of the Senate Republicans did so by being completely lawless themselves, without a second thought to the glaring irony of the situation.
Many will claim that Sen. Davis and her liberal colleagues defeated SB 5, but in actuality they did something far worse. They tore down, even if only for a few moments, the rule of law.
This sets us on a course we dare not go, and promotes a precedent with far-reaching implications.
Upon learning of the death of SB 5, protestors could be heard cheering and applauding the outcome. One can only wonder, is this the road we’re headed down, where our Republic dies to thunderous applause?