A rumor is floating around the Senate that Republicans might try an end around on the two-thirds rule to pass the budget. Under the Senate rules, Wednesdays are “House bill days” in which House bills already on the calendar may be brought up for consideration without suspending the regular order of business—that is, without a two-thirds vote of the senators present. You do have to take the House bills in the order they currently appear on the calendar. The next House bill on the Senate’s official Regular Order of Business calendar—that green book you see floating around the Senate that nobody ever looks at because it is usually totally irrelevant–is HB 1, the budget. Tomorrow is a Wednesday. “They could do it,” one Democratic senator told me, “but it would be going against the traditions of the Senate.” Which is to say, the Senate generally takes up House bills whenever they choose to, and “House Bill Day” is not a phrase you hear much around the chamber. Would the majority really use an obscure rule to circumvent the Senate’s most hallowed rule on a bill as crucial as the budget? Ogden is already on the record saying that circumventing the two-thirds rule to pass a budget would be “failure” in his estimation. We’re mired in the campus carry debate right now, but might have some majority party reaction as soon as Ogden heads for the lounge.
This rumor is looking more and more like reality. Debate on HB 1, with no Rainy Day Fund spending, is ongoing now, but it doesn’t look like Dems are on board. West is speaking against taking out Rainy Day Fund, and Hinojosa has already told press table he’s a no. So it’s hard to see how Ogden gets to 21 to suspend today. But word is Ogden will bring it up tomorrow and pass it out with a simple majority, under House Bill Wednesday rule (Senate rule 5.10). I guess he has had to adjust his definition of “failure.”
So bottom line: Senate budget will contain the same level of spending as bill passed out of committee, but the method of finance will change. To wit, the RDF money is taken out, to be replaced by a contingency clause that prorates spending across the budget (exempting public ed and bond debt service) if rising tax revenues don’t reach spending levels in bill.