Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Chubbed to death

Good news: Voter ID died quietly last night. Bad news: So did unemployment insurance funds of $555 million in federal stimulus dollars to be extended to the 200,000 Texans who are unemployed.

Republicans paid a little back for being bamboozled on the single greatest issue facing Texans today by talking the UEI extension to death last night:

Expanded jobless benefits for laid-off Texans, more health insurance for thousands of low-income children and reform of windstorm insurance rates for coastal residents all were in peril of dying Tuesday because of the lingering House battle over voter identification legislation.

A final clash at midnight killed both the voter identification measure as well as the unemployment benefits expansion. The legislation to help average Texans through children’s health and windstorm insurance also appeared to be dead, but those issues have a better chance at resurrection before the session ends June 1. ...

Democrats dropped their delay tactics shortly before 9 p.m. Tuesday as Speaker Pro Tempore Craig Eiland, D-Galveston, announced: “We’re going to rock and roll for awhile.” The Democrats brought up the unemployment benefits bill at about 11:35 p.m., but Republicans kept the debate going until they could kill it on the midnight deadline.

Dead legislation: a bill to legalize concealed handguns on college campuses.

Presumed dead: a requirement that women sign a waiver to decline a sonogram before having an abortion.

Critically ill: an expansion of the state’s unemployment insurance system to obtain $555 million in federal stimulus funds. The legislation was set to be next on the House agenda if the extended debate on the non-controversial bills ever ended.

Most of these deaths were a relief. The exception, obviously, was what had Friendswood Republican Larry Taylor grinning from ear to ear very early this morning:

Well, if Rick Perry, Joe Straus, David Dewhurst and their GOP conspirators couldn't successfully deny the vote to hundreds of thousands of Texans, they succeeded in denying them unemployment benefits.

I've seen a lot of black-hearted things in the Capitol, but I've never been as disgusted as I was when I saw GOP House Caucus Chair Larry Taylor grinning like the Cheshire Cat as Straus and his henchmen used the very device they'd been whining about -- slow talking -- to kill the unemployment insurance bill.

They were grinning like cats, but they were behaving like wee, witless errand-folk for Perry. Perry opposed the UI bill because he had to object to something in the federal stimulus package. Refusing a few hundred million from Barack Obama seemed just the ticket to raise his creep-cred with the far right. Even if it raised taxes on businesses about $700 million. Even if it increased the suffering of 200,000 Texans who've lost their jobs because G.W. Bush and Perry almost destroyed the economy.

Joe Straus has spent the entire legislative session in an undisclosed location, abdicating the Speaker's dais to the pro-tem, Galveston Democrat Craig Eiland. With the voter ID bill scheduled first on the legislative calendar last week, the GOP refused compromises from Democrats to consider other bills ahead of it, and that's when the filibuster began. Taylor again with the script straight from Limbaugh:

At one point, Taylor, the Republican leader, said compromising with the Democrats would be like negotiating with "kidnappers or terrorists." He hastened to add that he wasn't likening Democrats to criminals but compared them to "whiny kids throwing a fit on the floor."

Ah, the art of diplomacy. Taylor just never learned how to color within the lines.

Can you spell "special session"? I knew you could.

Update: Grits for Breakfast has more, specifically on the criminal justice legislation which passed gently into that good night.

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