Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Wendy Davis's filibuster and its aftermath

After a lot of reading this is what I've pieced together as the substance around Texas state Senators Wendy Davis's 11 hour filibuster:

The New York Times wrote that the bill: "...Sought to ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, require abortion clinics to meet the same standards as hospital-style surgical centers and mandate that a doctor who performs abortions have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital."

The vote was held during a special session which had to end at midnight and it's implied it can not be brought up again until the next legislative session.

Texas rules say a filibuster can be stopped if the speaker sits down or wanders off topic three times. Republicans argue Davis went off topic for the third time when she spoke about sonogram requirements, which were not part of the bill but have been used elsewhere. They also said it was against the rules when someone fitted her with a back brace to make standing easier.  Using that procedure it appears the GOP stopped her filibuster at about 9:45 p.m.

Democrats then asked procedural questions to delay for an additional two hours.

With 15 minutes to go, an unruly mob in the gallery started a constant roar of screams and shouts to make it so no officials could vote on the issue and be heard. This was referred to by protesters as a "people's filibuster." The officials tried to vote anyways and were not able to finish their vote until a few minutes after midnight, which means it didn't count. 

GOP lawmakers then appeared to change the computer records to show the vote took place before midnight.

I'm against legislature disguised as safety regulations that try to shut down abortion clinics, but I'm also against rioters and angry mobs overruling elected officials. The filibuster was a legitimate tactic. The procedural delay was a legitimate tactic. The mob disruption was not and those people deserve to be jailed for disrupting the vote.

The Republicans deserve criticism for trying to change the computer records, but it pales in comparison to what the angry mob did.

The disturbing thing is I expect we will see widespread accolades for Davis, major criticism of the Republicans for trying to manipulate the time stamp, and dead silence about the people who disrupted a legitimate legislative session to cheat the democratic process.

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