July 26, 2003
DE LAY OF DE LAND STAYS THE SAME....FOR NOW....Hey, it looks
like Tom DeLay's effort to redistrict Texas so it's more to his liking
has failed. Apparently it couldn't get enough Republican votes to pass, so everyone is going home.
Charles Kuffner has the details.
Posted by Kevin Drum at July 26, 2003 03:12 PM
It appears that the reason was that some Republicans finally got the
message from their constituents that they did not want to have their
political districts changed in the fundamental ways that the new map
would have made (such as taking vast swaths of rural areas and dumping
them into a suburban district). Good for them.
There's also the fact that Republicans in the Texas State Legislature
didn't actually stand to gain anything from this plan. Putting their
reputations on the line so that Tom De Lay and his buddies in the House
GOP caucus could reap the gains was never a particularly sensible
Don't break out the champagne: Dewhurst promises to bring back redistricting even if it takes more special sessions.
If you don't think there will be serious pressure from the leadership
to support what will become a slightly saner map, designed to support
the interests of the dissenting Republicans' constituents, you don't
know Texas politics.
The only thing that will stop redistricting will be massive displays
of voters' anger about it. And as Kuffner notes, most Texans haven't
gotten het up about the issue one way or another. So it'll keep going.
I agree with PG that Lt. Gov. Dewhurst hasn't dropped this ball. It
is the defining element of the Texas Republican agenda right now, even
though state legislators have less to gain than the GOP as a whole. The
reason it hasn't worked so far is not because of state Republicans
unsympathetic to the national agenda, but because of the political
landscape of Texas: The divisions between urban and rural populations
are simply too sharp, and the divisions between races too extreme, that
any redistricting map won't irritate at least a single Republican.
For instance, the county just north of Austin, a right-leaning
county, was slotted to be divided several times because its
right-leaning population would dilute its left-leaning neighbors.
Clearly the district's representatives didn't take kindly to the area
being divided, and--taking into account the nearly complete Democratic
antagonistic stance toward any map--it has little chance of passing.
But the bigger GOP thinks of this as a numbers game, and the longer
they call for sessions the more likely it gets that a representative
produces a map that will appease the nervous state Republicans and maybe
draw some of the Democratic fence-sitters over (Madla, D-San Antonio,
or Armbrister, D-Victoria). I don't know if that map could exist, but
DeLay seems to think so.
I disagree with PG, though, that crowds of angry Texans will put this
to rest. It's all about representatives more interested in having big,
urban constituencies, and not wanting to include large rural patches in
order to dilute any liberal elements of the big cities. (Or, vice
versa, closer to the border.) I don't think Texans have reached a
critical impatience with this yet, and I don't see why they would over
the course of the available special session time.
What the Democrats are pinning their hopes on now is a judicial
ruling that they cannot be forcibly dragged back into a legislative
session. If that's the case, then redistricting is dead no matter how
many sessions Perry calls because the Democrats will simply stay home
and deny the Republicans a quorum.
Another out-of-state prolonged walkout would be costly and a huge
hassle. But if they can just stay home and go about their business as
usual, they have nothing to lose and Perry and the Republicans will be
If they can be compelled back into session, though, DeLay will
eventually win. In the next session, the Republicans will only need a
simple majority to pass their plan; the Democrats will not be able to
That judicial ruling is likely to go all the way to the Texas Supreme Court before it's settled. This ain't over yet.
As for the boycott potential, I thought it was definitively decided
that Republicans could not sic state troopers on Democrats not in
attendance. The boycott is a valid option, and would save taxpayers
money and themselves the wasted time, but I think I'd rather see the
Democrats stick it out in the session. There's the confident bloc of TX
Senators (including one Republican) that have signed a letter of
"unalterable position;" not under the duress of a total surprise, like
back in May, the TX Democrats would send a strong message that state
voters would probably approve of. It'd go over well if Dems win this.
PaulB - Republicans can't get a map to that simple majority vote
unless the Senate agrees to go into debate over the issue, which
Democratic senators have succesfully blocked so far. Lt. Gov. Dewhurst
could sidestep that measure by changing tradition, since this process
isn't legally defined, but he refrained from making that move in the
first session. Possibly because the first session was nearly finished
when the Democrats vocalized their unalterable intent.
The Texas Supreme Court will certainly wind up with the appellate
decision on their desk, but I wonder if this can be decided by the end
of the break? Gov. Perry seems intent on pushing this throughout the
special session period (ie the break) but I don't know if he will
continue with it at the beginning of the regular session. Perhaps. I
tend to believe that this will be ultimately resolved by the fall.
Kriston wrote: "As for the boycott potential, I thought it was
definitively decided that Republicans could not sic state troopers on
Democrats not in attendance."
A lower court judge has ruled this way, I believe. I feel fairly
certain that this ruling will be appealed, which is why I said this was
going to the Texas Supreme Court. The Republicans could also simply
lock the door on the current session, close the session, and reopen the
next special session immediately, denying the Democrats the option of
"Republicans can't get a map to that simple majority vote unless
the Senate agrees to go into debate over the issue, which Democratic
senators have succesfully blocked so far."
The Democrats had this option in the regular session and in the first
extended session. They will not have that option in the next session,
which will be held under different rules. The difference is the
"blocker bill." The previous sessions had one; the next session will
not. In the next session, everything will be decided on a simple
Quoting from the Houston Chronicle, "A
dozen Democrats and a lone Republican had pledged to vote against
debating redistricting. Other bills were ahead of it on the agenda, and
Senate rules require a two-thirds vote of the 31 members to bring a bill
up for debate out of order."
"But Dewhurst has vowed that congressional redistricting will be
the only item on a second special session agenda, so it only will take a
simple majority of 16 votes to pass it."
In short, if the Democrats can be compelled to attend the special session, they lose. If they cannot, they win.
Shouldn't the title of this thread be "De Lay Of De Land Stays De Same?"
I think democrats in Texas should just move away. Give up. Let the
pugnicans have it, and watch the state blossom into a libertarian
paradise. The tax base will be gone, the rural whites can pass an
english-only law over the spanish-speakers on the border, ten-year olds
can take their concealed handguns to school to learn about Jeesus.
Texas can go ahead and rot out like the rest of Real America. The only
business will be meth labs, the filming of COPS shows, and the locals
performing for busloads of Japanese tourists who've come to gawk at real
'muricans...Remember the Alamo! :)