It is a sorry state of affairs in the Texas House of Representatives on this day. Paul Burka has a good look at today's vote. For those that like to watch a street fight, today is your day. Like a scene from Rammstein's Ich Will video it seemed more like a day to vent anger and bask in that anger. I hope for better days.
The Austin American Statesman has come up with an editorial that pretty much sums up things:
Was Democrats' petty victory worth it?
A minority of the minority party, the Democrats, in the Texas House managed on Tuesday to trip up House Speaker Tom Craddick, an unpopular Republican, but it's hard to see just why other than an attempt to embarrass him. It's also hard to see just what was accomplished for the people of Texas.
A constitutional rule bars the Texas House from voting on bills in the first 60 days of a regular 140-day regular legislative session, which began Jan. 9. The rule can be suspended on a four-fifths vote, thus requiring at least 120 members of the 150-member House to vote for suspension.
The rule was enacted in 1930 and the House has routinely voted to suspend it early in every legislative session since, except in 1981 — and now this year. On Tuesday, the House voted 108-34 to suspend, a huge margin in favor but still 12 votes short of the four-fifths required.
Democrats led the charge against the rule suspension, but they couldn't muster even a majority of their own to vote against Craddick. There are 69 House Democrats, but just 33 voted to suspend the rule, along with one Republican.
A majority of House Democrats — 36 — either voted to suspend the rule, as Craddick favored, or didn't vote at all, so the minority party itself was quite split over the rule suspension.
And what was accomplished by this minority "victory"? Legislative committees can't consider bills before Feb. 7 — just next Wednesday. That's not too bad, though it's a week lost to thumb-twiddling.
More seriously, the failure to suspend also means that the House can't start taking up bills reported out by committees until March 9, unless the bill addresses an issue that has been declared an emergency by the governor or the House agrees to suspend the rules for that particular bill.
On Wednesday, there were efforts to work out a compromise, at least regarding local bills, which address only a specific situation in a representative's home district and arouse no controversy whatsoever. The Legislature passes hundreds of such bills every session, and they can be especially important to newer lawmakers trying to get something done for constituents back home.
The problem with delaying action on any bills until March is that it will reduce their chances of getting a shot at any up-or-down House vote as the automatic May 28 adjournment approaches. The calendar will simply be too crowded to get to all of the bills that members want to be heard — and some Democrats whose bills die as a result will no doubt accuse the speaker of singling them out for punishment.
And maybe he will. Craddick has been justly criticized for some heavy-handed tactics to pass favored bills, and he was forced to fight to keep the speaker's chair on the opening day of this legislative session. He has said he will moderate his ways, but it's too soon to declare that he has.
Still, this newest effort to embarrass Craddick by slowing down House business comes across as petty. A minority of House Democrats has seized on an arcane rule to throw mud on Craddick, but the stuff is sticking to the throwers.
The Houston Chronicle has other words of critisism.
The Dallas Morning News also shares a little love for the legislature's ich will event.
Even the Tyler Morning Telegraph chimes in with an editorial against the action exhibited.