Regardless of conservative frustration or leftist celebration over the failed Texas Senate bill that would have banned abortions after 20 weeks of gestation and ensured abortion clinics are up to surgical hospital standards, the long-term ramifications of the mob tactics used to stop the bill haven’t yet been addressed.
If halting bills is as easy as filling up a legislative chamber with a raucous crowd, it would happen every time. The reason it doesn’t is because there are rules against such actions.
The rules for Texas Senate decorum and spectator behavior are clearly promulgated. Not surprisingly, they are as strict as any other governmental legislature chamber. All male senators must wear a suit and tie (3.01), enforced by the Sargent-at-Arms. For spectators, no food or drinks are allowed (3.02), no posters, banners, signs or placards are allowed (3.04), and “no applause, outbursts, or other demonstrations by any spectator shall be permitted during a session of the Senate.” (3.05).
Any violations of rule 3.05 are to be “strictly enforced,” and after “repeated warnings” for the demonstrators to stop, the chair has to power to “direct the Sargent-at-Arms to clear the gallery and lock the doors leading to the Senate Chamber.”
The protestors clearly were breaking Texas Senate rules, and therefore they thwarted proper democratic lawmaking. Exactly why they weren’t kicked out is somewhat puzzling.
At first, the AP and CBS reported the bill had passed, despite the chaotic finish. However, Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst reversed his original decision about an hour later, declaring that “the deafening roar from the gallery drowned out any possibility of adjourning with a signed bill.” In a statement released by Dewhurst’s office, he expressed his frustration and said the bill will be back:
I am furious about the outcome of the final day of this Special Session, when an unruly, screaming mob using 'Occupy Wall Street' tactics derailed legislation intended to protect the health of Texas women and their babies. An unconscionable series of delaying actions by the minority party and their allies placed SB 5 in direct jeopardy of death-by-filibuster upon its arrival in the Senate. Pushing every parliamentary procedure to its limit, we passed SB 5 19-10, but the deafening roar from the gallery drowned out any possibility of adjourning with a signed bill. I pledge to Texas one thing: this fight is far from over.
His office later confirmed to TAS that the deadline was missed.
Despite the “stand with Wendy” fanfare – some have declared she started a “Texas Spring” and others have compared her to "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" – in the end it was the “unruly mob," as Dewhurst called it, that undemocratically stopped the bill’s passage. Davis’s filibuster was busted at 10:07 p.m. CT, almost a full two hours before the midnight deadline. The mob began their cheering and jeering at around 11:45 p.m., right before the final roll call was about to begin, and continued until just past midnight.
But in the end, the bill will more than likely pass, especially after Perry recently declared a new special session that will begin on July 1. It will be up to the Texas Senate to ensure that their own rules are enforced, or the joke will be on them even more so than it was on Monday.