Texas State Senator Wendy Davis (D-10) is a remarkable woman. She set out on Wednesday to personally filibuster a proposed state law, SB 5, that would be one of the most restrictive in the nation on abortions -- stopping all abortions after the 20th week and cutting abortion clinics in the state by 80%, just for starters.
Okay, so she's going to filibuster, what's the big deal?
Well, you see, this is a special session of the Texas Senate. The bill had to pass by midnight, or it would be defeated. Governor Rick Perry (R-TX) could conceivably call another special session, but that's a separate matter. What all this means is that Wendy Davis had to filibuster, by herself, for...13 hours.
Okay, that's impressive. Except that until you know what filibustering in Texas entails, you don't begin to have an idea how impressive an undertaking this is.
In Texas, to filibuster, among other things: you, of course, have to stay on your feet. But you can't lean on a desk for support. You can even touch a desk. And you can't take a bathroom break. You also can't just read from the phone book or any random publication. Everything you say must be exactly on topic to the subject under consideration.
That's just for starters.
And so, she started. And talked. And talked and talked and talked and...
And here's where it gets confusing, because I can't get precise reports as I type this late Wednesday night. But as far as I can understand, she spoke for almost 11 hours, and with about 90 minutes to go before the midnight deadline, the Republican Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurt presiding was asked to respond to a challenge that Sen. Davis had strayed off topic for the third time. (She was discussing another bill that she claimed was germane to the bill at hand.)
As the Lieutenant Governor was attempting to decide how to rule (and everyone in that room had a pretty good idea what they would be...), the galley exploded. Here's video of that (after a 30-second commercial) --
Not surprisingly, Lieutenant Governor Dewhurst ruled against Sen. Davis at 10:39 PM.
Here's where it gets even more convoluted. It appears that Democrats began using parliamentary procedures to ask questions and make motions and delay proceedings until the midnight deadline passes. It's now past midnight in Texas as I write this, but I have no clue what happened during that last 80 minutes. I suspect that it will be clear in the morning. But then, this is Texas, so who the heck really knows.
In fact, it gets even more convoluted. A vote was apparently begun at 11:45 PM, and Republicans claim it passed by a vote of 17-12 before midnight (this claim later changed to 19-10) -- except that the Texas Legislative Service registered it as passing on "6-26-13," a day too late. However, according to the Austin Statesman, " the listing was changed to reflect passage before midnight." And now (it's just before 2 AM in Texas as I write this -- hey, we tries to get you accurate reporting...), senate Democrats are arguing that the voting didn't get finished until after midnight. If that's the case, the bill didn't pass. Republicans however are saying...well, you get point.
But whatever happens, what a remarkable, heroic effort by Sen. Wendy Davis.
By the way, this isn't the first time that this noble woman has filibustered at length in Texas. A couple years, she filibustered to save funding for education.
And she succeeded.
If I had a 10-gallon hat handy, I'd be doffing it big time...
Hat's off, indeed. To Wendy Davis. Very deep in the heart of Texas.
UPDATE: It's now Wednesday morning. There's now finally a resolution to the tale.
At 3:01 AM, the special session still had not yet been officially closed, though it ended at midnight. (You figure that one out.) Lieutenant Governor Dewhurst came back to his podium and announced -- “Regrettably, the constitutional time expired” on the special session" and he said that Senate Bill could not be signed, since the end of the session had passed. So, the bill was defeated. He then gavelled the session closed. And added, "It’s been fun, but, uh, see you soon.”
It will not surprise you that the crowd in the galley erupted in cheers. It might surprise you that there was still a crowd in the galley.
Mr. Dewhurst told reporters that the bill had passed, but he couldn't hear anything because of the noise. “An unruly mob, using Occupy Wall Street tactics, disrupted the Senate from protecting unborn babies,” he said angrily.
It turns out that one woman in the Texas senate had been a whole lot angrier that Lieutenant Governor Dewhurst could ever imagine being. And she decided to stand up for 11 hours and protect born women.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
Feedspot Badge of Honor