87th LegislatureState HouseState SenateChubbing and Snubbing: Democrats’ Delay to Kill GOP Priorities and the Republican Retaliation

The day after three big GOP priority bills died from Democratic chubbing, House Republicans and Democrats went to battle.
May 28, 2021
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Proceedings in the House chamber were brought to a slow crawl Tuesday as Democrats “chubbed” to prevent the body from reaching a transgender sports bill lying in wait low on the day’s calendar.

“Chubbing” is the act of stalling movement through the legislative calendar by calling points of order, asking a series of questions, and filing unremitting amendments. Democrats just had to run out the clock to midnight, marking the deadline that triggers the death of every bill on the calendar that hadn’t yet been initially passed.

House Democrats introduced 15 amendments on Senate Bill (SB) 23, a bill prescribing punishment for counties that “defund their police.” Accompanying each was a bout of lengthy questioning and grandstanding — a tedious but ultimately effective method to accomplish their goal.

The same strategy was employed during debate over SB 14, legislation designed to prevent localities from inserting themselves into employment contracts. Democrats introduced 14 amendments — not all of them obviously employed as time-wasters. But multiple were repetitive with slight twists, such as anti-discrimination amendments for race, sex, and hairstyle separately.

With each amendment, at least 20 minutes ticked off the clock.

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Points of order, or procedural challenges, were also called against bills — most of which ultimately failed to kill their intended target but succeeded in running more time off the clock. Among Republicans’ prized bills was legislation aimed at big tech censorship, which was postponed numerous times temporarily and eventually permanently after a valid point of order knocked it off the agenda.

It became clear early on that Democrats’ main target, a bill aiming to require student athletes to compete among their own biological sex, was toast. But then, other bills found themselves in jeopardy.

Patience began to wane among Republicans who wanted to reach the big-ticket bills. At one point, Rep. Matt Schaefer (R-Tyler) inquired about how many members were needed to “call the question” on SB 14 — a procedural maneuver to end debate and initiate the final vote on the legislation. That ultimately did not happen, but it foreshadowed skirmishes to come.

When the clock struck midnight, Democrats and progressive activists in the gallery cheered — and the House LGBT caucus spiked the proverbial football.

The next morning, the House took up its Local & Consent calendar for the day — a slate designed for uncontroversial bills destined for expedited passage. But it is often the subject of legislative comeuppance.

House Republicans — such as multiple members of the conservative Texas Freedom Caucus and Reps. Jeff Cason (R-Bedford), Lacey Hull (R-Houston), Kyle Biedermann (R-Fredericksburg), and Phil Stephenson (R-Weatherford) — joined together to kill multiple bills carried by the most vocal chubbers from the day before.

Those members included Reps. Rafael Anchia (D-Dallas), Chris Turner (D-Grand Prairie), Nicole Collier (D-Fort Worth), Erin Zwiener (D-Driftwood), and Terry Meza (D-Irving).

Injecting some humor into the fray, Rep. Ken King (R-Canadian) who delivered the day’s invocation asked from the back mic, “Did anyone listen to my prayer earlier?”

Rep. Joe Moody (D-El Paso) who oversaw the day’s fracas as chair, retorted, “I did!”

It isn’t the first time the Local & Consent calendar has been used to air grievances. Back in its inaugural session, the Freedom Caucus made its bones with the “Mother’s Day Massacre,” part of which included killing an entire Local & Consent calendar. The group had been spurned entirely by House leadership led by then-Speaker Joe Straus.

Tensions almost erupted on Local & Consent earlier this session between Democrats. After Rep. Harold Dutton (D-Houston), chair of the Public Education Committee, reversed course and advanced the transgender sports bill that had stalled to that point in retribution against progressive Democrats for killing his legislation designed to allow the state to take over failing public schools.

Progressive House members gathered signatures to kill all of Dutton’s bills on that calendar, but Dutton was ready. He had collected signatures to kill every Democrat’s bill on the calendar. At that point, the mutually assured destruction deterred any escalation. 

But that deterrence didn’t appear Wednesday until after some destruction.

The tit-for-tat on Tuesday evolved into a legislative Cold War, but eventually, the body recessed to let tensions subside. When they returned, the bills that had to that point died were resurrected. The two sides gave up and headed for their corners exhausted of conflict.

That fight is a microcosm of a broader one between Senate and House leadership. After the three big-ticket items perished in the House, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick called on Governor Greg Abbott to order a June special session to pull them across the finish line.

Fraught from the night before and the demise of some of its key legislation, the Freedom Caucus were among the first to come out strongly behind Patrick’s declaration.

Other Republican members have since echoed Patrick’s call but Abbott poured cold water on those hot coals, stating, “Some are trying to end the game before the time clock has run out. There’s still time remaining for the House and Senate to work together to get important conservative legislation to my desk.”

“Members in both chambers need to be spending every minute of every day to accomplish that mission.”

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Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson is an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.