Texas State Senator Wendy Davis, other Democratic Senators, with some help from what turned out to be thousands of Texas citizens (those in the Senate Chamber called an “unruly mob” by Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, R), eventually defeated Senate Bill 5, which would have imposed some of the strongest abortion regulations in the nation. Davis’ long filibuster of over 10 hours, about two hours short of the midnight deadline when the special session called by Gov. Perry ended. Republican Senators, with Dewhurst with the gavel most of the time, determined Davis had had twice spoken about subjects not “germane” to the bill. Added as the third of a “three strikes and you’re out,” which can end a filibuster, was Davis receiving assistance to put on a backbrace.
The gallery erupted, but the ruling stood. Other Democratic senators took up the role of stalling a vote, which the Republicans would win. They seemed to be succeeding when Dewhurst made several rulings, and apparently failed to recognize Democratic senators seeking to speak. When one Democratic senator, female, was finally recognized, and made a comment suggesting Dewhurst was recognizing men and not women, the crowd in the gallery, and the hundreds (which became thousands) erupted in cheers, which continued for about 15 minutes. It was clear that some kind of vote occurred during that time, and Dewhurst and Republicans assumed their vote had defeated the bill, though no such announcement was made. Some senators left, others continued milling around on the floor.
The Texas Legislative Service first showed SB 5 had passed on 6-26-13. About 1:00 AM, people began noticing that, as the Austin American Statesman wrote, “the listing was changed to reflect passage before midnight.”
It was unclear if SB 5 had passed or not. As many pointed out at the time, the vote was not made until after midnight. It took until after 3:00 AM, with crowds still filling the lobby and around the building, for Dewhurts to acknowledge that, as reported by the Austin American Statesman.
It was a wild day and night and morning in Austin, with Davis and other Democratic senators and a significant number of Texas citizens, with thousands responding in support of the filibuster and defeat of the SB 5 from around the nation.
From the Statesman:
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst returned to the Senate floor at 3:01 a.m., banged the gavel and announced that, “˜regrettably, the constitutional time expired’ on the special session.
Senate Bill 5 cannot be signed because it passed after midnight, he said.
After making his announcement, Dewhurst paused, then added: “˜It’s been fun, but, uh, see you soon.’
Another special session was already being discussed earlier in the long day.
Speaking to reporters afterward, Dewhurst said he was furious about the night’s events.
“˜An unruly mob, using Occupy Wall Street tactics, disrupted the Senate from protecting unborn babies,’ he said.
Dewhurst said SB5 passed 19-10, but with all the ruckus and noise, he couldn’t hear the proceedings, and now “˜I can’t sign the bill’ so it can go to Gov. Rick Perry.
The Texas Tribune quotes Dewhurst as saying,
“˜I didn’t lose control of what we were doing,’ he said. “˜We had an unruly mob.’
My own thoughts (and see the earlier story here : Davis and the Democrats, with significant help from those opposing SB 5, and those who showed up a few days ago in the “citizens filibuster” of the House, out-played and out-classed the Republican legislators who seemed to think they couldn’t fail, since they had the votes in both chambers. No doubt many will criticize the “unruly mob, using Occupy Wall Street tactics,” but many are also expressing support and encouragement. As Davis told the crowd last night, sometime after the session ended but results were still unknown:
“˜Today was democracy in action. You all are the voices we were speaking for from the floor.’
Check out the Statesman and Tribune stories for more details about how things unfolded.