The Texas Senate gallery is mostly empty due to social distancing at the Capitol on Tuesday.
Credit: Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman
The Texas Senate on Wednesday approved a fundamental alteration of its rules, ending the minority party’s ability to block legislation it unanimously opposes in the Republican-controlled upper chamber.
In a 18-13 vote, lawmakers voted to lower the threshold of support that legislation needs to make it onto the Senate floor. In past sessions, the Senate required a two-thirds supermajority, or 19 votes, to bring legislation to the floor. But after the defeat of Sen. Pete Flores, R-Pleasanton, reduced the number of Republicans from 19 to 18, lawmakers lowered the threshold to 18 members — a move Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick had been pushing for.
Passage of the rule required a simple majority — or 16 members. State Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, tweeted that the resolution passed on a party-line vote.
Republicans on the floor hailed the move. Patrick, who presides over the Senate, first floated the idea of lowering the threshold last January, later contending in December that the 2020 election proved voters support conservative candidates and that he planned on “moving a conservative agenda forward.”
Still, earlier Wednesday, Patrick expressed uncertainty about whether he’d be able to implement such a change. “I only have 18 Republicans. I need 16 votes,” he said at the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s annual Policy Orientation, referring to the simple majority needed to pass the measures. “I never count them till it’s over, but I’m hoping they do that. … I pray that we do.”
In introducing the resolution, state Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, said: “I believe our tradition of requiring a supermajority is good and we should retain it, but … it’s my view that there are enough big items that the majority of Texans have asked for that would be blocked with a 19-vote requirement, which would put us in a special session where we have no control over the agenda.” (To be clear, only Gov. Greg Abbott can call lawmakers back for a special legislative session.)
While the procedure may sound like parliamentary arcana, the impact could spell trouble for Democrats. The change essentially allows Republicans to continue deciding which bills are brought up for consideration without the minority party’s input.
Source:: The Texas Tribune
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