In 1836, the Mexican army had surrounded a large regiment of Texans, in their fight for liberty and independence. Outgunned and outnumbered, there were no victorious conclusions that the Texans could reach. They were going down, one way or another.
The Texans holed up in a little mission in San Antonio, named the Alamo. In one of the final days of the battle, as the Mexicans were preparing to make their final assault, Colonel William Travis drew a line in the sand and offered his men an ultimatum: either run away and flee Texas, or stay and fight for her to the end. This, simply put, is the question now put before the Texas Senate Democrats.
The Texas Tribune reports that the House has granted final passage to HB2, the omnibus anti-abortion bill, by a vote of 96-49. No word if this means two of the five Democratic men who voted for the measure gained a small amount of humility. By Legislative rules, the Senate now must wait 24 hours to bring up the bill.
The means that Dewhurst will bring up the bill on Thursday morning. In the interim, a Senate committee still needs to vote on the issue. As you may remember, the Senate Health & Human Services Committee did not vote on the bill. Such an action will probably occur in the next 24 hours.
What all of this means, simply put, is that SB1/HB2 could be sent to Rick Perry’s desk as early as Thursday night or Friday. As Dewhurst recently told the Tribune, we are out of filibuster range. True, no person could filibuster for twenty days. This leaves one option left for the Democrats to kill this legislation, the Nuclear Option. That is, a quorum bust.
While I have, at one point, been a proponent of this option, three things have changed my mind. First, my friend Charles Kuffner at Off the Kuff, who was already established and blogging back when Ardmore occurred in 2003 (as opposed to myself, who was still in Grade School), wrote a convincing article about the differences that would make such an action improbable. He mentioned “punitive measures” put in place to prevent future quorum busts, but could not remember the details. The detail is that the Representatives and Senators would lose all of their Seniority.
Second, while the conventional wisdom once was that if the Democrats successfully busted quorum until July 30th, Governor Perry would not call a third session, as the Republicans would get weary of the seemingly insurmountable task, this is probably not going to be the case. Because both Lieutenant Governor Dewhurst and Speaker Straus have made the decision to go ahead with the omnibus anti-abortion legislation first and foremost, the Transportation funding legislation would be held hostage. This would make a third session all the more likely.
Last but least, and this is what really changed my mind, is the public relations of it all. The Texas Democrats are now seen heroically, standing up for their rights and making big speeches and statements every step of the way. If they skedaddle to Oklahoma or New Mexico, they forfeit all of that good PR. They would be those who flee with their tails between their legs. That should not be what the Texas Democrats of the future should be about.
Chairman Kirk Watson should draw his own line in the sand. If any Senators want to leave, they can, but I have an inkling they will not be a sizable minority. Everyone else will stay and fight to the bitter end. The Democrats need to do a filibuster anyways. Shave off another 12 to 18 hours off the clock, in one last seemingly hopeless way to protect their constituents.
Brave Texans sacrificed themselves at the Battle of the Alamo, because while they would lose the battle, they knew they could win the war. This war may be won by two means: at the ballot box and at the courthouse. Both of which are helped by these dilatory measures conducted by Democrats.
While Wendy Davis’ –or any Democrat, for that matter– candidacy in 2014 is a long shot towards victory, to say the least, no one can doubt that the filibuster and successive events have given fuel to Texas Democrats. While Davis most likely would not beat Greg Abbott, she could easily come closer than all before her. This, in turn, will produce coattails for Democrats downballot in the competitive races of Bexar, Harris and Nueces counties, respectively. Some seats might even sway blue in Fort Bend and Galveston.
Second, and more importantly, all of the amendment offered up by the Democrats, which were summarily rejected one after another by the GOP, are going to be used as evidence in a later court case. Ostensibly, this bill is about women’s health, but we all know that is a bunch of poppycock (to use a nice word). If it can be shown that this bill is about making it harder to get an abortion, it will be struck down by a Federal Court faster than you could say “Roe.”
On May 21st of this year, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals (one level below the US Supreme Court), in the case of Isaacson v. Horne, struck down the State of Arizona’s ban on abortion after 20 weeks, a key point in Texas’ omnibus anti-abortion legislation. Similarly, just yesterday, a Federal Judge in Wisconsin, the Hon. William M. Conley, in the case of Planned Parenthood v. Van Hollen, enjoined enforcement of a Wisconsin law requiring abortion doctors to have admitting privileges in nearby hospitals. As you may recall, this also is a cornerstone of HB2/SB1.
If I had to put money on it, I would say there is a better chance than not that HB2/SB1 will never take effect because of Court action. That being said, the Democrats need to go down swinging and pulling out all of the stops. Just as “remember the alamo” won the war of [Texas] independence, “Remember Wendy” may come in handy next election…or a few down the road.