POLITICO Playbook: Texas Dems mount a ‘walking filibuster’

POLITICO Playbook: Texas Dems mount a ‘walking filibuster’

May 31, 2021
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POLITICO Playbook: Texas Dems mount a ‘walking filibuster’ By RYAN LIZZA 05/31/2021 10:50 AM EDT Presented by DRIVING THE DAY HAPPENING NOW: President JOE BIDEN delivers the annual Memorial Day Address at Arlington National Cemetery after a solemn wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Watch live […]

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POLITICO Playbook: Texas Dems mount a ‘walking filibuster’


05/31/2021 10:50 AM EDT

Presented by


HAPPENING NOW: President JOE BIDEN delivers the annual Memorial Day Address at Arlington National Cemetery after a solemn wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Watch live

If you live in Washington, D.C., some great news on this Memorial Day: It’s going to be 72 degrees and sunny, coronavirus cases, positivity rates and Covid-19 deaths in D.C. are all at about the lowest they’ve been since March 2020. Restaurants are back at 100%. I hope you get to spend time with people you haven’t seen in a while. More below on the start of Reunion Summer, but first …

THE TEXAS WALKOUT: On Sunday night, at 10:35 p.m. CDT, Democrats in the Texas Capitol received a text from their caucus leader commanding them to exit the building:

“Members take your key and leave the chamber discretely. Do not go to the gallery. Leave the building.”

There was no fire or bomb scare, but for Democrats it was an emergency.

The mass exit of the minority party deprived Republicans the 100-member quorum necessary to pass one of the most restrictive voting laws in the country before a midnight deadline.

The law, per NYT’s Nick Corasaniti, “included new restrictions on absentee voting; granted broad new autonomy and authority to partisan poll watchers; escalated punishments for mistakes or offenses by election officials; and banned both drive-through voting and 24-hour voting, which were used for the first time during the 2020 election in Harris County, home to Houston and a growing number of the state’s Democratic voters.”

The Texas legislation, known as SB7, was so alarming to national Democrats that Biden released a statement Saturday condemning it as “part of an assault on democracy” and “un-American.” If Democrats in Austin were looking for a nod from the White House to do everything in their power to scuttle the bill, they received it from the president, who said, “I continue to call on all Americans, of every party and persuasion, to stand up for our democracy and protect the right to vote and the integrity of our elections.”

Democrats in the state House of Representatives realized Republicans could vote to halt their talking filibuster, so they resorted to a walking filibuster. Texas Tribune’s Alexa Ura on how it happened:

“In between their speeches opposing the bill, Democrats seemed to be trickling off the floor throughout the night, a number of their desks appearing empty. During an earlier vote to adopt a resolution allowing last-minute additions to the bill, just 35 of 67 Democrats appeared to cast votes. Around 10:30 p.m., the remaining Democrats were seen walking out of the chamber. …

“By 11:15 p.m. about 30 Democrats could be seen arriving at a Baptist church about 2 miles away from the Capitol in East Austin.

“The location for Democrats’ reunion appeared to be a nod at a last-minute addition to the expansive bill that set a new restriction on early voting hours on Sundays, limiting voting from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. Over the last two days, Democrats had derided the addition — dropped in during behind-closed-door negotiations — raising concerns that change would hamper ‘souls to the polls’ efforts meant to turn out voters, particularly Black voters, after church services.”

Per the AP, the good news for Democrats …

“The revolt is one of Democrats’ biggest protests to date against nationwide GOP efforts to impose stricter election laws and they used the spotlight to urge President Biden to act on voting rights.”

And the bad news …

“But the victory may be fleeting: Republican Gov. GREG ABBOTT, who had declared new voting laws a priority in Texas, said he would call for a special session to finish the job. He called the failure of the bill ‘deeply disappointing’ but didn’t say when he would bring lawmakers back to work.”

National Democrats are seizing on the Texas walkout to add pressure to end the Senate filibuster and pass the For the People Act and/or the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. Here’s JULIÁN CASTRO:

“Texas Democrats have officially blocked the Republican voter suppression bill and spared us time to act. NOW is the time for the U.S. Senate to end the filibuster and safeguard our democracy before it’s too late. @Sen_JoeManchin and @SenatorSinema, we’re counting on you.”

Conservatives immediately leapt on the obvious contradiction here: Castro is cheering how the minority party used an extreme blocking tactic to defeat SB7 in Texas while demanding that Democrats strip the minority of a similar power in Washington.

SPEAKING OF THREATS TO DEMOCRACY — This is a real headline in America in 2021: “Former Trump advisor Michael Flynn said the U.S. should have a coup like Myanmar, where the military overthrew the democratically elected government,” Insider … The video

KEEP AN EYE ON THIS — Policing and rising crime rates are now dominating two very different electoral contests, a House special election in New Mexico and the New York City mayoral race:

— Fox News’ Paul Steinhauser: “Surge in crime, defund the police push are top issues in House special election”

— HuffPost’s Daniel Marans: “How A Historic Spike In Crime Upended New York City Politics”

REUNION SUMMER: The WSJ’s Jennifer Levitz writes about “The Great American Reunion” happening this summer as Americans dine out in large numbers again, families that have been separated for a year gather in living rooms, worshipers sing and pray without masks, fans return to live music venues, and workers stream back into the office.

The accompanying photo essay is surprisingly powerful. It captures moments that would have been entirely banal 15 months ago, but which now seem almost magical — people hugging, eating together, gathering in big groups in backyards, dancing, singing, toasting and getting drunk. As one person tells the Journal, “We can live again.”

Good Monday morning. Thanks for reading Playbook. Let us know how you plan to celebrate the return of normalcy this summer: Rachael Bade, Eugene Daniels, Ryan Lizza, Tara Palmeri.


— 7:30 a.m.: The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief.

— 8:35 a.m.: The president and first lady JILL BIDEN will leave Wilmington, Del., for the White House, arriving at 9:30 a.m.

— 10 a.m.: The Bidens will take part in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery, with VP KAMALA HARRIS and second gentleman DOUG EMHOFF, Defense Secretary LLOYD AUSTIN and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair Gen. MARK MILLEY.

— 10:30 a.m.: Biden will deliver the Memorial Day Address at the 153rd National Memorial Day Observance at Arlington National Cemetery’s Memorial Amphitheater. Austin and Milley will also speak.

THE WEEK AHEAD — Biden will head to Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Tuesday to mark the 100th anniversary of the killing of hundreds of Black residents, with remarks, a tour of the Greenwood Cultural Center and meetings with surviving members of the community. He’ll deliver remarks twice more later in the week — about the pandemic and vaccines Wednesday and about the jobs report Friday.



MEMORIAL DAY READING — “President Joe Biden delivers remarks at Memorial Day event Sunday,” Delaware News Journal: “On the eve of his first Memorial Day as commander in chief, President Joe Biden commended military service members and their families while grieving the anniversary of the death of his son BEAU BIDEN. … The president lauded military personnel for their service and consoled grieving families who’ve lost loved ones in the line of duty.

“‘I know how much the loss hurts,’ Biden said. ‘I know the black hole it leaves in the middle of your chest; it feels like you may get sucked into it and not come out.’ … Biden called for unity on a day of remembrance and honor. ‘I hope that the nation comes together,’ Biden said. ‘We’re not Democrats or Republicans today – we’re Americans.’”

WHAT LOUISA TERRELL IS READING — “Biden Leads Predecessors in Nominations, Lags Behind in Confirmations,” by WSJ’s Ken Thomas: “More than four months into his presidency, Mr. Biden has made 244 cumulative nominations to Senate-confirmed positions, more than double the number made by President DONALD TRUMP at this stage …

“But while Mr. Biden’s cabinet nominees were confirmed relatively quickly, he trails [BILL CLINTON, GEORGE W. BUSH and BARACK OBAMA] in overall Senate confirmations at this point of his presidency, clearing 53 of his nominees so far.”

WEEKENDS IN WILMINGTON — “For Biden, the White House is ‘a Monday-through-Friday kind of place,’” by CNN’s Kate Bennett: “Since taking office four months ago, the President has spent more weekends away from the White House than he has stayed there, almost three times as many. Counting this Memorial Day weekend, Biden has been in Wilmington nine weekends and passed five weekends at the presidential retreat, Camp David, in rural Maryland. The numbers far exceed any modern president’s weekends off-campus at this point in his tenure. …

“Biden’s instinct — sometimes last-minute, say those familiar with his schedule — is to get away from it for a weekly breather. One person said it’s the escapism aspect of getting away from ‘the office’ that drives him to seek another location. … Another person familiar with the mood of the Biden residence noted the first couple is well-liked by the White House staff, but their frequent absences make it difficult to get to know them.”


IMMIGRATION FILES — “White House considering fast-track family deportations,” by Axios’ Stef Kight: “Resuming the practice of so-called expedited removals for families could be a divisive move among some Democrats. It would shift the administration toward a more deterrence-based approach, used to different degrees by the past four presidents and embraced especially by the Trump administration. …

“A review of the expedited removal process by the Department of Homeland Security is due this week … Some advisers are recommending the tool as a way to deter prospective undocumented border crossers. A White House official told Axios that ‘no final determinations have been made.’”

“Biden Aims to Rebuild and Expand Legal Immigration,” by NYT’s Michael Shear and Zolan Kanno-Youngs: “A 46-page draft blueprint obtained by The New York Times maps out the Biden administration’s plans to significantly expand the legal immigration system, including methodically reversing the efforts to dismantle it by Trump, who reduced the flow of foreign workers, families and refugees, erecting procedural barriers tougher to cross than his ‘big, beautiful wall.’

“Divided into seven sections, the document offers detailed policy proposals that would help more foreigners move to the United States, including high-skilled workers, trafficking victims, the families of Americans living abroad, American Indians born in Canada, refugees, asylum-seekers and farm workers. Immigrants who apply online could pay less in fees or even secure a waiver in an attempt to ‘reduce barriers’ to immigration. And regulations would be overhauled to ‘encourage full participation by immigrants in our civic life.’”

THE NEXT CULTURE WAR FRONT — “Challenge to Roe v. Wade puts spotlight on FDA review of abortion pill rules,” by Alice Miranda Ollstein: “A new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that such state restrictions are helping to drive demand for abortion pills, which the Food and Drug Administration recently said can be dispensed by mail during the pandemic to protect people against the coronavirus. Earlier this month, the agency temporarily waived requirements that the pills be given to patients in person by a doctor for the duration of the pandemic and could make the policy permanent, pending an ongoing review. …

“The FDA decision to allow patients to receive the pills via telemedicine or through the mail during the pandemic has galvanized both sides of the abortion wars. Anti-abortion activists — having lost influence in Washington following the 2020 election — have intensified lobbying right-leaning state legislatures to curb, if not outlaw, access to the pills, concerned that widespread access to the drug will render other abortion restrictions obsolete.” The study


100TH ANNIVERSARY IN TULSA — “Church leaders encourage hope in persecution as north Tulsa faith community commemorates massacre: ‘We remember, we worship,’” Tulsa World: “Organizers reminded attendees … to not only remember the tragedy, but also to worship the Lord who has been with their generations through it all. And worship they did. … [MONROE] NICHOLS urged the crowd not to forget the task at hand — seeking justice — but to have patience. It took 100 years just to tell the history of the massacre, he said; a renaissance can’t be done in a weekend.

“Tulsa City Councilor VANESSA HALL-HARPER joined Nichols and several other speakers in calling for something she said seems to make many-a governmental leader uncomfortable. ‘We cannot even talk about justice without reparations,’ Hall-Harper said.”

LAST NIGHT ON ‘60 MINUTES’ — “Federal judges call for increased security after threats jump 400% and one judge’s son is killed,” by CBS’ Bill Whitaker: “Judge ESTHER SALAS was in her New Jersey home when a gunman targeting Salas opened fire on her family, killing her son and wounding her husband. Now she’s fighting for better protection of judges.”


BIBI ON THE ROPES — “Is it finally the end for Benjamin Netanyahu, the great survivor of Israeli politics?” by CNN’s Hadas Gold: “Beyond losing his role as leader of Israel’s government, Netanyahu faces perhaps an even greater threat if the new government is sworn in: an ongoing trial on charges of bribery, fraud and breach of trust.

“Netanyahu has denied all the charges, describing them as a media-fueled witch hunt against him. He insists he wants the case to run its course, confident it will crumble. But political analysts say that by staying in power, Netanyahu could avoid prosecution and possible jail time by appointing a new attorney general, or by influencing the appointment of certain judges who could affect his trial. Other critics of the Israeli leader say he wants to pass a new immunity law that would protect a sitting prime minister from being indicted.”

FROM ONE TO THREE — “China Allows for Three Children as Nation Faces Demographic Crunch From One-Child Policy,” WSJ: “The shift comes more than five years after Beijing ended its decadeslong ‘one-child policy’ to let all couples have two children, and follows the release earlier this month of census figures showing China’s population on the cusp of a historic turning point after years of rapid growth.

“The announcement came after a Monday meeting of the Politburo, the Chinese Communist Party’s top decision-making body, chaired by leader XI JINPING. State-run Xinhua News Agency said the change would ‘improve the country’s population structure, actively implement the national strategy to respond to the aging population, and maintain the country’s demographic advantage.’”


GOP CANDIDATES FLOCK TO BANNON’S POD — “Bannon has his MAGA megaphone back. GOP candidates know it,” by NBC’s Henry Gomez and Allan Smith: “With Fox News losing favor among Trump’s most diehard fans, ‘War Room’ appears to be gaining steam as a safe space for the far right. It’s routinely among the most popular podcasts on Apple’s platform and streams live twice each weekday and once every Saturday through the Real America’s Voice network.

“On this show, Joe Biden is not the real president, and the theory that Covid-19 leaked from a Wuhan, China, lab has been a hot topic for more than a year. Bannon encourages skepticism about vaccines one minute and peddles zinc and Vitamin D pills the next. In an interview with NBC News, Bannon said candidates who appear will be pushed first and foremost on what he called ‘a litmus test’ for the GOP: challenging the outcome of the 2020 election.”

WHAT HAPPENED IN LAFAYETTE PARK — “Department used tear gas on Lafayette Park protesters in June 2020,” WUSA9: “In a federal court hearing Friday, MPD’s attorney gave reasons for why the department used tear gas and other chemical irritants on protesters. ‘The curfew, violence of past nights, chaos created by federal defendants, discharge of tear gas in that direction was not unreasonable,’ attorney RICHARD SOBIECKI, representing MPD, said. Sobiecki added that because its officers ‘did not target specific protesters,’ their constitutional rights were not violated.”


HANNAH-JONES BACKSTORY — “Nikole Hannah-Jones, a Mega-Donor, and the Future of Journalism,” by The Assembly’s John Drescher: “[WALTER] HUSSMAN had doubts about whether having her on the faculty would distract from teaching the school’s core values, according to emails and four university sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity. He relayed his concerns to the university’s top leaders, including at least one member of the UNC-CH Board of Trustees. …

“The previously unreported pushback by one of UNC-Chapel Hill’s biggest donors underscores issues about donor influence at the university, which is increasingly reliant on major gifts in light of mandated tuition freezes and minimal legislative-funding increases. It also reveals a new front in a growing national debate about objectivity in newsrooms: journalism schools themselves.”


AN ONLY-IN-SPRING 2021 HEADLINE: “Unfortunately, Cicadas Taste Like Nature’s Gushers; If you must eat them, go for air-fried,” The Atlantic

FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — MEDIAWATCH: Will Ricciardella has been named senior editor for Fox News digital. He most recently was digital engagement editor at the Washington Examiner.

WEEKEND WEDDINGS — Greg Stohr, Supreme Court reporter for Bloomberg News, and Kimberly Atkins Stohr, a Boston Globe columnist and MSNBC contributor, got married Friday on the roof of the Rosewood Hotel in Georgetown, where the rain held off just long enough. Pic, via Derrel ToddAnother pic

— Katie Smith, senior media relations manager at the Urban Institute and a POLITICO alum, and Jonathan Hill, senior privacy policy analyst at the White House Office of Management and Budget, got married Saturday at her parents’ home in Forest, Va., surrounded by loved ones. The couple met online and live in Alexandria. Pic

WELCOME TO THE WORLD — Travis Considine, chief of media and comms at the Texas Department of Public Safety and a Rick Perry and John Cornyn alum, and Morgan Smith, a freelance journalist and Texas Tribune alum, recently welcomed Callum James Considine. PicAnother pic

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Rep. Larry Bucshon (R-Ind.) ... Lauren Passalacqua ... Juli Weiner ... Al FromBernard Goldberg ... former Del. Madeleine Bordallo (D-Guam) … Bert Kaufman ... Angela Meyers … BuzzFeed’s Matt Berman ... Debra DeShong … NPR’s Deirdre WalshStephanie Weix ... Julie Moos of the National Press Club Journalism Institute ... Jennifer Berlin … POLITICO’s Brad BossermanClark Judge ... Kelsey KatsZenia Mucha Amy Pfeiffer, COS to Rep. Andy Kim (D-N.J.) … Blake Williams of For Our Future Florida … Michael O’Connor of Williams & Connolly … Marilyn Tavenner Jessa Merrill Ford … CNN’s Sara Sidner … former Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) … Stripe’s Sarah Heck Charlie Meisch of Crosscut Strategies … Fariba Yassaee Dan Pino … In Pursuit Of’s Erik Telford Sara Carter Pamela HughesSteve Duprey Alix Heard … Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán Katie Bond Howard Homonoff Phil ElwoodVidhya Murugesan Federico BarttfeldJamie Oh … Hugh StapletonBill Oglesby

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