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Wendy Davis filibuster: How it went down at "the lege" in Texas

I was watching the Davis filibuster on the twitter last night -- after planning to get to bed early, for once -- and I created a sort of dynamic archive by retweeting. I "tuned in" shortly after Davis's filibuster had been ended, and the Senate began trying to vote on the legislation (which would have turned many Texas women into captive breeding animals by denying them control over their own bodies, in this case through abortion). Amazing spectacle, because the legislative session ended at midnight, and if the legislation didn't pass by that deadline, it would not pass. The timestamps see to be off, but I picked things up at 11:45PM:

(AP had called the vote for the Republicans.)

I tuned out when a Democrat came out of the closed chamber to the rotunda, and started to explain -- yes, an old white guy, so I suppose I should insert the obligatory "mansplain" -- what had happened, that is, when it was clear that the crowd wasn't going to occupy the Capitol.

* * *

In the morning, this was the outcome:

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst had until 11:59 Tuesday to pass Senate Bill 5, an omnibus abortion bill that was widely expected to shut down 37 out of 42 existing abortion clinics. More than 400 opponents of the bill packed the Senate gallery to watch Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, attempt to filibuster it for nearly 11 hours until the end of the special session.

At about 11:45 p.m., Republican Sen. Robert Duncan was presiding over the Senate and using all of his authority to stop Davis while ignoring Democrats who were trying to use parliamentary rules to stall the vote. That’s when the crowd erupted in jeers, claps and shouts of “Shame!”


Time ticked on until some clocks and mobile phones showed midnight. Just as the mood in the gallery began to shift from anger to celebration, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst called all of the senators to the front podium to register their votes. He ignored Democrats who held up their phones, declaring that it was past midnight and that the session had expired.

Republican lawmakers voted anyway and said that the vote was valid because they had started at 11:59 p.m. The votes were tallied into a computer system operated by the secretary of the senate.


Some reporters, including those working for The Associated Press, checked the computer system to see what day the votes were registered.

When the votes first appeared, the date next to them read “6/26/2013.” Moments later other reporters opened the same record and the date read “6/25/2013.”

A reporter for The AP videoed his computer screen while refreshing the page, capturing the date changing from Wednesday to Tuesday.

The date of the vote had changed.

Democratic senators protested. Senate officials refused to answer questions about the change.

Sen. Chuy Hinojosa of McAllen produced two computer-generated print-outs of the vote tally — one time-stamped Wednesday and the other dated Tuesday.

Sen. Carlos Uresti, D-San Antonio, checked the official journal clerk’s handwritten log, and it showed the vote took place at 12:02 a.m. Wednesday.


Armed with that evidence, the entire Senate met behind closed doors with Dewhurst. He emerged minutes later and tersely declared that while the vote was valid, the protesters had kept him from signing the bill in the presence of the Senate, and therefore, the bill had not been finalized. He said the vote stood but that the bill was dead.

He then hinted that Gov. Rick Perry would call another special session to pass the bill, saying, “See you soon.”

* * *

Some reactions:

1. Kudos to Wendy Davis. It's always nice to see the game played the way it ought to be played, and for real stakes, too.

2. The Clinton vs. Warren vs. Davis 2016 cage match should be interesting. Kidding! Except not?

3. I'm forcibly reminded of the WI Capitol Occupations, except (a) no occupation -- and wouldn't it have been great to hold the Capitol until Perry called another session? -- and (b) better spectacle. I find no fault with the brilliant Madison Occupiers, but it's hard to beat a one-woman ten-and-a-half hour filibuster with a midnight deadline, winner take all.

4. And speaking of WI.... Well, history doesn't repeat, but it rhymes.

5. Oh, and Obama's a pathetic craven weasel-wording lawyer whose every utterance must be parsed, which having been done, reveals the empty words inside the empty suit:

I mean, come on. "Something special"? WTF?

UPDATE From the media critique perspective:

1. Kudos to the Texas Tribune (hat tip, affinis)

2. The uses to which twitter can be put are really interesting (see above). The entire legislative process was made (much more) transparent with twitter, which in this case acted rather like Al Jazeera's famous camera trained on Tahrir Square. Watching the time stamp on the legislation change in real time as documented by screen dumps was pretty astounding.

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DCblogger's picture
Submitted by DCblogger on

It was a great night, like Wisconsin, but different. For once the anti-abortion crowd was exposed for what it is, a bunch of women hating ogres. And what a thrilled to see the galleries filled with angry citizens insisting upon their rights. It shows that people will support leaders when they lead.

I predict similar uprisings, but no way to know where they will occur.

Cujo359's picture
Submitted by Cujo359 on

The entire legislative process was made (much more) transparent with twitter, which in this case acted rather like Al Jazeera's famous camera trained on Tahrir Square.

I meant to tune in a little before midnight CDT, but didn't. I got caught up quickly reading my default Twitter feed, though. It was pretty accurate, based on what reporters from the scene wrote, too.

Makes me wonder what would have happened had there not been all those observers in attendance.