Chaos Derails Texas Abortion Bill After Epic Filibuster

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
June 26 2013 9:38 AM

After Chaos and Confusion, Texas Abortion Bill Fails Following Epic Filibuster

UPDATE: In yet another twist, after initially declaring the abortion-restriction bill passed Texas Republicans have backtracked, acknowledging they did not make the midnight deadline. The Texas Tribune with the details:

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

Republican senators made a last-ditch effort to approve SB 5, voting 19-10, but by then the clock had ticked past midnight. Under the terms of the state Constitution, the special session had ended, and the bill could not be signed, enrolled or sent to the governor. ...
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said he was “very frustrated” with the night’s results, after officially declaring near 3 a.m. that the bill could not be enrolled.  “An unruly mob using Occupy Wall Street tactics” derailed legislation that was intended to protect women and babies, he told reporters. "I didn't lose control of what we were doing," he said. "We had an unruly mob."

The Associated Press, meanwhile, reports that Republicans "barely" beat the midnight deadline to vote on the bill, but that Dewhurst claimed "chaos in the chamber prevented him from formally signing it before the deadline passed, effectively killing it." Regardless of the exact timing of the vote, it looks like Davis and her fellow Democrats won the battle.

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Wednesday 3:27 a.m.: This much we know: Wendy Davis' marathon filibuster that began before noon Tuesday came to an end roughly two hours shy of her midnight goal after Republicans were able to use a trio of points of order to halt her one-woman show. What's not clear as of 3 a.m.: Whether Republicans were able to step in and pass their sweeping package of abortion restrictions before that same deadline.

The Dallas Morning News explains what happened in Texas as the clock slowly ticked past 12 a.m., the point at which the special session of the state legislature came to an end and with it Republicans' ability to pass the controversial bill without Gov. Rick Perry calling another one:

Republicans contend that senators voted 19-10 in favor of the bill, almost entirely along party lines. But Democrats said that the vote came too late and that the matter could end up in court.
The extended drama came after Republicans used strict interpretations of Senate rules to knock Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, off her marathon filibuster. The final vote was delayed several minutes by loud applause from the gallery, drowning out the action on the floor. That followed more than an hour and a half of tense debate over Senate rules and decorum, after Republican Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst ruled on a procedural point that the filibuster must end.

The Associated Press, meanwhile, documents the back and forth that continued well after the final bell:

While Democrats as well as assembled reporters watched clocks on their mobile phones tick past midnight, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said the voting began just before. Shortly after the vote, Dewhurst, the chamber's presiding officer, retreated to his office and issued no statements.
According to Republicans and the official legislative website, the bill beat the deadline and now goes to Gov. Rick Perry, who directed that the legislation be taken up in the special session and is expected to sign it into law. Democrats immediately predicted a legal challenge and insisted the bill didn't pass before midnight. They noted that the legislative website changed: first showing the vote happening Wednesday, then show it was done on Tuesday.

We'll be back in the morning to try to make heads or tails of this whole thing. But it's a safe bet there won't be a clear answer anytime soon. In the meantime, for those keeping score at home, the Republican points of order that ended the filibuster: the first was on the germaneness of Davis' comments; the second was related to Davis receiving assistance from another senator who helped adjust her back brace; and the final one was also on the germaneness of the discussion, according to the Texas Tribune.

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Original Post, Tuesday 3:13 p.m.: There appears to be only two things standing in the way of Texas passing a package of sweeping new restrictions on abortions that would effectively close most abortion clinics in the state: Wendy Davis and her pink shoes. The Democratic state senator is currently waging what is shaping up to be a rather epic filibuster on the floor.

This isn't the first filibuster to be live-streamed. We all remember Sen. Rand Paul's nearly 13-hour (mostly) one-man show on the U.S. Senate floor earlier this year. But while the spoils of Paul's effort were less direct—media attention to his cause, fundraising dollars, and a two-sentence response from Eric Holder—Davis has the chance for a more clear-cut victory. If she can remain standing until midnight local time, the chamber's current special session will come to a close, regardless of whether the Senate has the chance to vote on the bill. You can watch to see if she does it for yourself here:

Paul, you'll remember, made it 12 hours and 52 minutes before he was forced to answer nature's call. Davis took the floor at 11:18 a.m., according to the Associated Press, so she'll need to last "only" 12 hours and 42 minutes. Even if she does, however, it may prove to be only a temporary victory. There is nothing preventing Gov. Rick Perry from calling another special session to try again. Still, by then, Davis will have proved to everyone that she and her allies won't take the loss sitting down.

(h/t AtlanticWire for flagging; Texas Tribune for the livestream)

***Follow @JoshVoorhees and the rest of the @slatest team on Twitter.***



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