A confident-looking David Dewhurst predicted this afternoon that the Voter ID bill would pass the Senate: Never mind that 11 Democrats have signed a letter vowing to block debate on the issue.

“I think there are votes to pass this bill,” a slightly smug Dewhurst told the press gaggle after today’s Senate session. “It’s an overwhelmingly popular concept. This is something Americans have died for –the right to vote.”

What gives? Well, Dewhurst has good reason to believe that the Senate Democrats aren’t so good at standing firm as a bloc. Take, for instance, the vote to suspend on SB 1317 by Mike Jackson, which undermines the City of Houston’s efforts to control regional air pollution. The bill passed today, with Jackson arguing that the debate centered on “city sovereignty” — as in, Big Brother Houston shouldn’t dictate to its pollution-belching neighbors how to police themselves.

Pretty much on party lines, the Senate voted 20-10 to debate the bill. The key vote? Eddie Lucio, present, not voting.

Now that Rodney Ellis has safely passed his press shield bill (okay, so it’s a long way from actually becoming law), I can sorta safely report that Credible Sources say that Lucio promised to vote against Jackson’s bill. After his “present-not-voting” antics, Lucio proceeded to vote against the bill, and promised one member he’d vote no when it is considered tomorrow. Thanks, pal. The vote that counted was today’s motion to suspend.

The incident is illustrative of what could happen on the Voter ID bill. Ellis is hoping Voter ID resonates on an emotional level to Democrats, in the way other votes might not. When asked about the level of commitment of his 11 votes to bloc Voter ID, Ellis immediately mentioned “Former Member’s Day,” held last week. “This is a pretty important vote,” he said. “When I join that line of ‘former members’ (who were introduced in the chamber), I sure hope it’s voluntary.”

One last reason Dewhurst may have been so pleased after today’s session: it seems he personally lobbied members on behalf of Jackson’s bill. Why would the lieutenant governor of Texas get involved in a local fight? Some took it as a symptom of BWPS (Bill White Paranoia Syndrome).