Make ALL filibusters like Wendy’s Texas-style filibuster!

  • Published on June 26th, 2013

What about it, Senator Merkley? Senator Reid? Why can’t we reform the US Senate filibuster to match the rules – and the drama – of the filibuster that Kill the bill - filibuster reform, Texas style played out last night in the Texas State Senate?

Texas Republicans wanted to pass a draconian abortion bill that would have banned all abortions over 20 weeks (which is, you know, just slightly unconstitutional) and also force the closure of nearly every abortion clinic in the state.

Davis, who had herself been a teen mom, said, “No way.”

Wendy Davis@WendyDavisTexasFollow

The leadership may not want to listen to TX women, but they will have to listen to me. I intend to filibuster this bill. #SB5 #txlege

She started into it at t 11:18 a.m. CST – which meant she had to keep it going for nearly 13 hours if she was going to kill the bill that would kill the clinics.

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Texas rules are almost as draconian as the Abortion Bill.

  • You have  to be standing the whole time – you can’t even lean on any kind of support.
  • Must speak or read material germane to the question (so no reading off-topic stuff like the phone book, as Southern conservatives had done back in the 1960s to run out the clock and derail civil rights legislation.)
  • No bathroom breaks.

And, as Buzzfeed noted, this event that played out to a national audience on the Internet… was utterly ignored by the networks and cable news. They plain and Kill the bill Texas filibuster - CNN misses the storysimple missed the story. CNN Tech had the story online, but CNN’s cable channel was talking about blueberry muffins as the clock ticked down to midnight.

Blueberry muffins.

Here’s Mark Joyella (an Orlando TV news anchor and Buzzfeed contributor):

…The only way to follow the story was online — thanks to a legislative feed put up by a nonprofit, the Texas Tribune, and streamed to YouTube.

At one point near midnight last night, 182,000 people were watching the maneuvering of state legislators. State politics. A filibuster. As news executives would describe it, ratings poison.

But it wasn’t. It was gold. And with CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News in re-airs, the audience assembled all by itself around their devices — watching a 4-inch video box and tweeting madly about what they were seeing.

This graph shows just how fast the story blew up on Twitter: hitting a peak of 5,776 tweets per minute. According to Twitter, the #standwithwendy hashtag had 400,000 global mentions Tuesday. (Cable news execs: That’s “trending,” right?)

The buzz was thicker’n Texas BBQ sauce. As USA Today reported,

One user wrote, “I never thought I would be shaking with tension over parliamentary procedures! #gowendygo #standwithwendy”

Celebrities and politicians from actor Julianne Moore to Newark Mayor Cory Booker tweeted their support.

Actor Henry Winkler tweeted at @WendyDavisTexas, telling her, “You stand for all of us who believe woman are in charge of their own bodies and destinies.” President Obama tweeted, “Something special is happening in Austin tonight.” From gossip columnist Perez Hilton: “I stand with Wendy and all women! #StandWithWendy.”

And when President Obama’s Twitter feed added to the firestorm, he got 9,000 retweets.

 Barack Obama@BarackObama Follow

Something special is happening in Austin tonight: #StandWithWendy

Even Senate Majority leader Harry Reid got into the act:

Senator Harry Reid Senator Harry Reid ‏@SenatorReid

Wendy Davis engaged in the kind of filibuster I can support. #standwithwendy #SB5

That earned him 887 retweets, along with comments such as “So reform the damn rules already!”

Under Texas rules, a debater gets three strikes. Normally these get invoked if you do something egregious, like wander seriously off topic. But the presiding officer, Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, (R-Houston) invoked them for piddly shit:

  • Discussing Planned Parenthood’s budget.
  • When Davis had help adjusting her back brace.
  • Mentioning Texas’ 2011 sonogram law.

Hey, I don’t see anything non-germane there, but then I’m not a Texas Republican, so what do I know? As  of the Huffington Post noted, “The legislation that Davis protested would prohibit abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, regulate first-trimester abortion clinics as ambulatory surgical centers and restrict access to medication abortions. But it does not specifically mention ultrasounds.”

When Dewhurts invoked the third strike and tried to shut her down after 10 pm, the overflow crowd erupted in a chant of “Let her kill the bill texas filibuster - "Let her speak!"speak! Let her speak!” The points of order were flying!

The Texas GOP did actually manage to get in  a vote… but it was after midnight. So just like the US House GOP’s draconian (and unconstitutional) abortion bill they pushed through just last week (or the 42 separate votes  “repealing” Obamacare) the vote was just for show (which didn’t stop them from trying to sneak it through… to no avail.)

The deadline was midnight, and Wendy had held the floor and kept up the debate long enough to kill the bill.

So – what do you say, Harry Reid? Put your floor-vote where your Tweet is. If this is good enough for Texas, how can it be wrong for the US Senate?

I double-dare John Cornyn and Ted Cruz to vote against bringing good-ol’ Texas style filibusters to the US Senate!

(Kill the Bill Image @EliSnaggletooth and Buzzfeed. Comic @Rosscott and Buzzfeed. Senate gallery photo by @shefalil. )

About the Author

Jeremy Bloom is the Editor of RedGreenAndBlue. He lives in New York, where he combines his passion for the environment with his passion for film, and is working on making the world a better place.