The controversy over the Voter ID bill, which prompted lengthy caususes in the Texas Senate today, continues to escalate. I’ve just been told that three senators — Leticia Van de Putte, Tommy Williams and Steve Ogden — are being sent as emissaries from the entire Senate to communicate to Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst their displeasure at his handling of the emotionally-charged issue.
Apparently, the Senate remained split on the issue — with many Republicans arguing for ditching the two-thirds rule to get the bill passed — until Dewhurst earlier today issued a foolish attack against John Whitmire in a press release. I’m told that Dewhurst’s comments had the salutary effect of uniting the Senate, though perhaps not in the manner he would have hoped.
“Everyone was furious,” I was told. The Dewhurst letter, which he has since disavowed, included this attack on Whitmire:
“On the floor of the Senate yesterday, the longest-serving Democratic Senator ironically gamed the voting process by walking off the floor of the senate chamber in an attempt to stall consideration of the Voter ID bill. When he returned to the Senate floor after his name had been called three times, he cursed and tried to make himself a victim. I wonder how the Senator’s constituents feel about this deliberate attempt to block legislation that effects every citizen’s right to vote.”
I’m going to go out on a limb here and speculate that the lieutenant governor’s campaign staff, not his legislative policy analysts, drafted this letter. This is what happens when legislative veterans are supplanted with political spin doctors. I’ll speculate further that this point will be part of the message delivered by Van de Putte, Williams and Ogden.
With 12 days left in the session, the Texas Senate is a rudderless ship. The electricity legislation is in the ditch. Serious time was wasted today on an issue that will do nothing to solve the state’s real problems: health insurance for kids, transportation, high electric bills, quality schools. Dewhurst is gambling that the Voter ID issue will resonate more with the Republican Party primary voters in 2010 than any of these other issues.