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Wednesday, September 03, 2003

Connecting the dots between Sen. Whitmire's quotes

From quotes in today's papers, I remain convinced that Texas Sen. John Whitmire (D-Houston) is sincere when he says he's not just "giving up" by returning to Texas, but that he has some sort of plan in mind that would result in an overall compromise, and he's in active if secret negotiations with Texas Republicans toward that end.

From the press comments I've linked and quoted below, my strong hunch is that he sees a serious danger that the "blocker bill" procedure — misleadingly and disingenuously referred to as the "two-thirds rule" — will be done away with not just for the present redistricting fight, but for all Senate deliberations in the future.  And that would indeed change the fundamental nature of the Texas Senate.  Among other things, it would make all of the minority-party state senators something close to irrelevant, as they watched vote after vote pass by simple majority rule without any influence from themselves on the process.  Sen. Whitmire may have concluded that winning the redistricting battle — to save the skins of white male incumbent Democratic Congressmen like Charlie Stenholm, or even his old friend Gene Green (who met him at the Houston airport last night) — isn't worth the price of losing that war.

From this morning's Houston Chronicle:

Whitmire said Tuesday night that he had assurances he was safe from arrest for a few days, but did not elaborate.

From this morning's San Antonio Express-News:

Whitmire said he's confident Perry will not immediately call another special session.

"But if he does, my spies will notify me. I have an escape plan, and if need be, I'll leave (Texas) again. I have not given up, I have not surrendered," Whitmire said.

He denied that Republican leaders influenced his decision.

"I am working on a plan that will restore the collegiality to the Senate, and I am fearful that if the two-thirds rule is permanently removed, the Senate will no longer exist as we know it," Whitmire said.

From this morning's Austin American-Statesman:

Whitmire said he is concerned that continuing the boycott would cause irreparable damage to the Senate. He likened the standoff to the vitriolic debate of a campaign.

"Both sides, we're polling, we're running advertising, we're holding daily news conferences," he said. "Elections have an election date, but we don't have an election date for this campaign."

He said he intends to talk to both sides to try to "lower the rhetoric."

UPDATE (Weds. Sep 3 @ 11:45pm):   Seems I was right (and that the Houston Chronicle's Rachel Graves is still getting the "rule vs. custom" bit wrong):

Whitmire feared that staying in Albuquerque would push Republicans to permanently scrap a Senate rule that gives a third of the Senate the power to block a bill from being considered.

Republican Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst abandoned that rule during the second session, a move that prompted the Democrats to flee.

"Without it, 16 members run the entire Senate," Whitmire said, adding that he does not want that to be the case on other legislative issues. "Redistricting is really important, but so is school finance. So is criminal justice."

Posted by Beldar at 07:55 AM in Texas Redistricting | Permalink

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