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Parliamentary Deadlock Grips the House Floor

Photo Courtesy The Texas Tribune
Rep. Chisum and other Republicans try to figure out a way to get some of their priority bills passed in the House.

With 38 members missing from House's first Saturday meeting — most of them Republicans — Democrats seized a chance to cause some procedural mischief when they realized only 14 of them would have to walk out to break a quorum.

To keep that from happening, Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, asked Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, for a role call, which would keep members inside the chambers with locked doors. With Democrats outraged by that, Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston, went to the back mike in the chamber to ask that a role call include all 150 members — calling on DPS troopers to track down absent members and bring them in to be counted. Chisum backed down and withdrew his motion.

But then Rep. Todd Hunter, R-Corpus Christi, came forward with another motion. He asked the House to suspend all rules — something that would make technical points of order invalid and allow House business to proceed without a quorum present — and schedule the day's most controversial bills, HB 274, 272, and 400 for Monday.

Then partisan chaos erupted. At the back mike, Turner said the integrity of the House was at stake — and that the motion was an "abridgement of everything the House stood for." Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer took over, asking Hunter just what rules he intended to suspend. Members on the floor shouted out the answer before Hunter did: "All."

"We threw out a chair because he didn't follow the rules," said Fischer, "If you don't want to follow the rules, that's on you." 

Now the House is proceeding to regular business, but it looks like more stall-tactics are on the way. Watch this space for updates.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at

Morgan Smith was an editorial intern and columnist at Slate in Washington, D.C., before moving to Austin to enter law school at the University of Texas in 2008. (She has put her degree on hold to join the Tribune's staff.) A native of San Antonio, she has a bachelor's degree in English from Wellesley College.