Why do life-saving Pro-Life bills die in backroom deals? A guide to the innerworkings of the Texas Legislature

The most powerful tool of anti-Life Democrats and Republicans-In-Name-Only (RINOs) in the Texas Legislature is the clock.  The Texas Legislature meets for a brief 140 days every other year.  The 85th Session of the Texas Legislature this year is no exception, and the allotted 140 days are dwindling.  In order to kill life-saving Pro-Life bills, the anti-Life lobby and RINO allies need only to stall bills in the complex procedural process.  Without ever appearing for a public vote or revealing their deadly tactics to constituents, obstructionist anti-Lifers under the Dome can ensure that important Pro-Life reforms stand little to no chance of becoming law.

Although many people think the theatrics on the House and Senate floor are where decisions are made, the reality is that political games decide the fate of Pro-Life bills long before they reach the floor (and most never do).  In “How to kill a bill in 140 days (or less),” Morgan Smith of the Texas Tribune outlines some of the many ways legislators and lobbyists plot to kill bills long before they reach the governor’s desk.  The tactics that have proved most lethal for Pro-Life reforms this session are also the most secretive.  Smith writes:

The Legislature’s most lethal killer is quiet and mundane.  Call it death by a thousand delays…Let it languish before getting referred to a committee, where it may or may not get a hearing.  If it finally gets a hearing, then maybe it never gets a vote.

Perhaps nowhere is this so clearly illustrated as in the Texas House Committee on State Affairs.  RINOs in House leadership assign Pro-Life bills to this infamous committee, chaired by their crony Byron Cook of Corsicana.  From there, the death of priority life-saving legislation is all but a done deal.  Cook is notorious for running out the clock on conservative legislation.

Smith also notes that while getting friendly with the governor, lieutenant governor, and speaker of the house might seem advantageous, forming an alliance with committee chairmen can be even more effective for ensuring a bill’s demise.  She explains: “If they can’t prevent a bill from seeing the light of their committee room, they can schedule it later in the session, steadily increasing the chance it will die of natural causes.”  Important Pro-Life reforms have fallen prey to such strategies, and the results are almost certainly fatal.

Anti-Life actions have steered priority Pro-Life legislation passed out of the Senate into dead-end committees along with the House bills languishing in those same committees all session.  Powerful chairmen, like Byron Cook, have done their part to delay hearings, demand consensus before voting, and prevent placing the bills on the calendar.  Although spats on the House floor often receive media attention, the mundane workings of various committees are rarely covered.  Thus, powerful committee members can destroy life-saving bills without being held accountable by their Pro-Life constituents.

With only 25 days left in the session, Pro-Life advocates are disappointed to see most priority Pro-Life legislation has yet to be scheduled for a committee hearing.  While the Senate has passed multiple Pro-Life bills, not one life-saving bill is set to reach the House floor.  In a frenzy of session deadlines, all House bills must be voted out of committee by Monday, May 8 and passed on the House floor by Thursday, May 11.  While Senate Bills have a little later deadline in the House, conservatives have publicly voiced their concerns about the slow movement of Pro-Life priorities.  Unfortunately, unless immediate action is taken, the clock will run out.  The Dismemberment Abortion Ban is not immune to these political games.  Texas Right to Life’s number one priority for the session, the Dismemberment Abortion Ban would outlaw tortuous and inhumane abortions in which the preborn child loses his or her Life by being torn limb from limb.

Though there are many ways to kill bills, there are also bold strategies to pass legislation.  While deadlines approach and anti-Life opposition remains, Texas Right to Life must look to the House rules to find other ways to pass the Dismemberment Abortion Ban during the few remaining weeks of the session.  Otherwise, two years will pass before this legislation may be filed again as a standalone bill.  Many bills that closely relate to Pro-Life provisions are moving; language prohibiting dismemberment abortions could be added to those bills, provided House leadership and House parliamentarians follow their own rules – something that has been far from consistent in recent legislative sessions.

Some members of the House will call this an extreme tactic, however the same could be argued for allowing one chairman to unilaterally stop Pro-Life progress for more than two years.  With so many ways to kill bills in the maze of committees in the Texas Legislature, we have to find creative ways to bring life-saving bills to the floor.  Urge your legislators to pass the Dismemberment Abortion Ban this session.  Preborn Texans cannot wait.