Per the above video, the epic filibuster has begun in the Texas Senate. As I mentioned last night, Sen. Eddie Lucio (D-Brownsville), the one anti-woman Democrat, switched votes to prevent suspension of the rules. This held true all the way through about 11AM this morning, when the 24 hour rule was satisfied and the Senate was free to take up the bill. Shortly thereafter, Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Forth Worth) began her filibuster.
For those of you who are not familiar with this saga, here is a brief overview. After failing to pass any regulatory measures on abortion in the Regular Session of the 83rd Session (January-May), Governor Perry added “abortion” to the call of the Special Session that began on May 27th and ends at midnight today (June 25th). An omnibus anti-abortion bill, SB5, was drafted by Republicans in the Legislature. The bill does four things: (1) bans abortion after 20 weeks, (2) requires abortions be performed in “ambulatory surgical centers,” (3) requires abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles, and (4) requires to abortion doctor to administer in person most all of the drugs. The second and third rules are the most damaging, and a study by the Texas Democratic Party insinuated it would close 37 of the 42 abortion clinics in the State. That would leave 1 clinic in San Antonio, 1 in Austin, 1 in Dallas and 2 in Houston. 0 in the Valley, 0 in East Texas, 0 in the heartland, 0 in the panhandle, 0 in the west, 0 in El Paso, 0 in Fort Worth. For the record, El Paso to San Antonio is 550 miles.
The bill passed a Senate committee on June 14th, and the entire Senate passed the bill shortly thereafter, but without the 20 week ban. The bill started fanning the flames on June 21st, when the House State Affairs Committee held a hearing on the bill. Hundreds, if not thousands, of women showed up to testify until the middle of the night, when the Chairman of the Committee finally, abruptly, cut off debate. The committee passed the bill early the next day. Last Sunday, the House brought up the bill for passage, and the Democrats tried their hardest to delay debate as long as they could. By the time the bill made it out of the House, it was 11AM on Monday and the 20 week ban had been reintroduced to the bill, requiring the legislation to return to the Senate.
The Senate normally requires a bill to sit for 24 hours before it takes up the legislation. Accordingly, the Senate could not take up SB5 until 11AM this morning. The Republicans, twice, attempted to thwart this by voting to suspend the rules. However, this requires a 2/3 majority. As such, the Democrats were able to block this suspension.
Accordingly, the Senate took up the bill at 11AM Tuesday morning, with just 13 hours left to go in the Special Session. Shortly thereafter, Sen. Wendy Davis began filibustering the bill and that is what she is still doing.
At press time it is about 4:30. Senator Davis has been filibustering for about 5.5 hours, with about 7.5 hours left to go. Here’s to hoping –err, praying– she does not back down.