AUSTIN, Texas — In an act of political subterfuge, at least 53 Democratic legislators packed their bags, disappeared from the Capitol and apparently scattered across the Southwest on Monday as Texas Rangers searched for them, bringing a divisive legislative session to an abrupt halt.
Under state law, Republicans — who control the governor’s mansion, the state Senate and the state House for the first time since the 19th century — need 100 of 150 legislators on the floor of the House before they can conduct the people’s business.
Now they don’t have a quorum, and with Thursday the last day legislation can be sent to the Senate, the conservative agenda they’ve effectively waited 130 years to advance could die. — Outgunned, Texas Democrats Vamoose, The Los Angeles Times, 5/13/2003
Good for the Texas Democrats. Among the neat little tricks the Republican majority is trying to pull is a congressional redistricting plan that takes gerrymandering to a new extreme, creating one district that is 300 miles long and one mile wide in places. That’s crap partisanship that has nothing to do with the interests of democracy in the slightest, and if the only weapon the Texas Democrats had to keep it from happening was to hie out of town, then that’s exactly what they should have done — and did. I feel ideologically consistent on this one since if the situations were reversed and the Republicans pulled the same maneuver, I’d congratulate them as well. That the Democrats’ maneuver also keeps the Texas Republicans from slashing money for textbooks and yanking health benefits for 250,000 kids is just a nice bonus.
Texas Republicans, of course, are calling the Democrats cowards: “It’s not a disgrace to stand and fight, but it is a disgrace to run and hide,” says Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick. This is like calling someone a coward because he won’t stand in front of a steamroller and let it run him over. Staying in front of the steamroller may not be cowardly, but it is idiotic; much better to slip over to the side of the steamroller and yank out its battery. Anyway, I wouldn’t put much stock in the Republicans’ whining, since if the situations were reversed they’d be doing the same thing, and Rush Limbaugh and the conservative chorus would be praising them for their courageous stand. Let’s not pretend at this late point that Republicans stand for anything more than political expediency; if they did the Democrats wouldn’t have had to high-tail it out of Austin.
The best line of this whole fracas comes from the New Mexico attorney general, who when asked to extend the Texas Rangers the jurisdiction to compel any Texas legislatures found in that state to return to Texas, refused to do do, but then added: “I have put out an all-points bulletin for law enforcement to be on the lookout for politicians in favor of health care for the needy and against tax cuts for the wealthy,” she said (she’s a Democrat).
Well, you won’t find any of those in Texas right about now. Which says most of what you need to know about Texas.