Just over a third of the Texas House of Representatives—all Democrats—have fled the state and 51 of them are hanging out by the pool at a hotel in Oklahoma. The other four appear to be in New Mexico. Why? There are enough of them missing that the House no longer has a quorum and can’t conduct any business—in particular, a redistricting bill that would give us more Republicans in Congress (which Texas needs like more mosquitos in June). If they stay until Friday, the bill dies. The remaining 90-odd reps were locked in chambers until Tuesday night, the governor having exercised one of the few powers he has in order to keep them there.
The Houston Chronicle is locally reviled for its shoddy reporting, but this week they’re doing a decent job (perhaps unintentionally) of conveying how deeply funny this is. Here’s their summary of the Legislature’s activities for the day:
In the House, again, it’s anybody’s guess. Republicans and Democrats will likely continue to snipe at each other from afar. As long as the 51 Democratic representatives remain in Oklahoma, the House will be unable to conduct business.
Their quote for the day, from Houston rep Senfronia Thompson (who is, shall we say, a plus-sized woman) on the state troopers who snooped through her office on Monday:
“Honey, they went all through my office, my desk, and my file cabinets. Now why would they look for me there? You know I can’t get into my file cabinets, as big as I am.”
As far as I know, she isn’t deliberately channeling Lula.
The House Speaker has sent DPS troopers and the Texas Rangers chasing after the reps, but they don’t have the authority to arrest people outside the state. They appealed to the Oklahoma governor, who turned out to be a Democrat and told them to bugger off. Oklahoma’s House, in fact, passed a resolution supporting the exiles and shot down another that would have added their state’s LEOs to the fray.
You gotta wonder who wrote the rules when a week-long poolside vacation is enough to block legislation. Granted, they can be arrested when they come back. I wish the Cronk would post their photos online, because today’s front page was priceless. It showed one casually-dressed guy flipping through some paperwork at an umbrella table by the pool, with a cell phone in one hand and a styrofoam cup from Denny’s near the other. Underneath it was a shot of a local rep, still in her power suit, lounging back in her chair in chambers, surrounded by empty seats and abandoned laptops.
This is the most entertainment we’ve gotten out of our state congress in, well, forever.