News Column

Controversial Texas Abortion Bill Faces Defeat

June 25, 2013

Democrats appear to be within striking distance of killing stricter proposed abortion requirements before the special session ends Tuesday, while Republicans are pointing fingers at each other over the legislation's dim prospects.

"It does not look like there was coordination between the people who lead the majority," said Sen. Dan Patrick, a Houston Republican who is pushing abortion legislation and said the issue should have been taken up much earlier.

"We should never put ourselves in a position, as the majority, to be in a box where you're down to 24 hours," Patrick said. "It's just clear that we appear to be flying a little bit by the seat of our pants."

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who might face a challenge from Patrick in the GOP primary for the post he holds, said there was a plan, but he suggested the House passed the bill too late.

Gov. Rick Perry added the abortion issue to the special session, which he controls and which began May 27.

The Senate last week approved Senate Bill 5 to impose stricter regulations on abortion clinics, require doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles, and specify requirements for administering abortion-inducing drugs.

The House added a ban on abortion at 20 weeks to the bill before approving it early Monday, after a series of delaying tactics by Democrats.

A final Senate OK is required for the bill to go to Perry's desk.

But Senate procedural rules mean the bill can't be considered until just after 11 a.m. Tuesday, the last day of the session. That gives Senate Democrats who oppose the measure the opportunity to kill it through a filibuster, talking until the clock runs out.

"I asked the House, 'Please don't send it to us at the last minute, please. Send it out, at the latest on Sunday afternoon, so we'll be able to take it up outside of filibuster range,'" Dewhurst said.

The timing of the bill's passage by the House and the resulting delay in Senate consideration leaves it vulnerable, he said.

"Most of us ... could stand up for 13 hours and talk," Dewhurst said.

House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, said, "The House has successfully addressed every issue that was included in the special session, and the Senate now has an opportunity to act on these bills."

Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, who plans to carry out the filibuster supported by other Senate Democratic Caucus members, said of the prospect of speaking that long, "Oh yes. On an issue as important as this? Absolutely."

An effort by Dewhurst and GOP senators to suspend Senate rules so the bill could be taken up Monday, making a successful filibuster more difficult, failed to get the necessary two-thirds vote of those present.

The margin could have been achieved because Republicans have 19 seats in the 31-member Senate and Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, was absent, attending to family matters after her father's death.

With Van de Putte out, Dewhurst needed just one Democrat to flip to muster enough votes to suspend the Senate rule.

But Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville, voted against suspending rules at Van de Putte's request, though he supports the legislation. Lucio said that out of respect and concern for her, he would not vote to suspend rules unless she were present.

If the bill fails, Patrick said, he hopes Perry will call lawmakers back for another try.

Asked about the chances of that, Perry spokesman Josh Havens said that "there is still time left in this special session for the Legislature to address the issues on the call."


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Source: (c)2013 the San Antonio Express-News Distributed by MCT Information Services


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