AUSTIN (Nexstar) — In an 18-13 vote along party lines, the Texas Senate adopted a key rule change that lowers the threshold for a bill to come to the floor for a vote.
The effort was led by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who aimed to ensure Republicans (who are in the majority) have more power to override Democrats wishing to block legislation.
The balance of power in the chamber is 18 Republicans and 13 Democrats with the addition of new members from the 2020 election.
“We can’t do anything you want us to do, if we don’t change the rule,” Patrick told guests at a luncheon hosted by a conservative public policy think tank. “Anything that’s important, conservative bills will be blocked, gun bills, life bills, tax bills will be blocked.”
“We have to do it,” Patrick continued. “That’s what you elected us to do.”
That threshold has dipped at the start of the last two sessions, from 21 votes to 19 votes and after Wednesday, 18 votes needed to consider a bill.
Democrats say Patrick is moving the goalposts.
“I grew up in Whitney, Texas, and I will be darned if I remember us studying what 5/9 is,” State Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, said. “2/3 yes, 3/5 yes, but 5/9? We just never contemplated somebody standing up trying to say they wanted to be governed by 5/9.”
Patrick said elections matter.
“We’re the majority,” he said at Wednesday’s luncheon. “Elections matter.”
“So it’s going to be 16 a simple majority plus two,” he explained. “And they said, ‘well that’s — it’s political.’ I said, ‘Yes, we’re the majority.'”
The Senate also discussed coronavirus protocols as well as operations for the Redistricting Committee, tasked with redrawing district boundaries.