The high stakes drama that unfolded on the Texas Senate floor Tuesday night had the makings of unending intrigue for political science junkies — a live talking filibuster, procedural motions galore, raucous crowds in the gallery and a bill dealing with the most politically divisive issue in America today: abortion.
Watching the debate on YouTube reminded me why I got into state politics to begin with — the consequences of decisions are so immediate to citizens, the forum is accessible and the drama is so real.
The debate evoked memories of “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” as Texas Senator Wendy Davis stood for more than 11 hours — with no water, no leaning and a warning after a colleague helped adjust her back brace — speaking against Senate Bill 5.
Facebook and Twitter came alive with comments and support for Davis. YouTube registered thousands of views as a growing number of people watched the proceedings on the Texas Senate floor as if it were a New Year's Day bowl game.
Adding to the excitement was the clock — if the debate could extend past midnight in Austin, the anti-abortion bill would die under the rules of the Texas legislative special session. As the clock neared midnight, Texans in the gallery took to their feet to disrupt proceedings for the remaining 15 minutes, which ultimately killed the bill. Truly, a storybook ending to this amazing story of political suspense and maneuvering.
For all of the excitement in Texas and the adoration heaped on Senator Davis as a result of her filibuster, the reality in Oregon is such a showdown could not occur here. The arcane rules of procedure that govern the Oregon House and Senate provide very specific processes for debate — none of which allow a filibuster. In both Oregon chambers, members are limited to five minutes of discussion in debate.
Under limited circumstances, they can speak longer, but under no circumstances can a member go on for 10 hours to stop debate on a bill. Oregon also limits the ability of the minority to amend bills on the floor, withdraw measures from committee or prevent the orderly completion of business.