Dan Patrick proposes rule change to disempower Democrats in Texas Senate

by | Dec 10, 2020 | Politics, Texas Legislature

As Donald Trump and loyal congressional Republicans attempt to overturn the results of the election, in Texas, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick is doing his own part to stifle gains by Democrats.

On Wednesday, Patrick reaffirmed his support for a rule change in the upcoming session that would change the number of votes required to bring a bill to the floor from 19 to 18 — the exact number of the Republican majority in the Texas Senate.

In his statement backing the rule change, Patrick called on Republican candidates competing in a special runoff election in Senate District 30 in North Texas to endorse the rule change too.

“A simple majority vote of 16 is needed to pass a bill, but we must be able to get that bill to the floor without Democrats blocking it,” Patrick said bluntly in his statement

In 2015, a newly elected Patrick led Senate Republicans in scrapping a 70-year tradition by changing the number of votes needed to bring a bill to the floor from 21 to 19. The change made it so that the threshold went from a two-thirds majority to a three-fifths majority. 

The result was a streamlining of the most controversial pieces of the Republican agenda. “The 19-vote rule has allowed Republicans, the majority party, to pass legislation that has been blocked for many years,” Patrick told the Texas Tribune months into the 2015 session. 

Reacting to Patrick’s announcement on Wednesday, Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa said Texans everywhere should be outraged. 

“The Texas Senate was once a deliberate body with a Texas tradition of bipartisanship and the requirement for a two-thirds majority to bring a bill to the floor for debate,” Hinojosa said in a statement. “When the rule no longer served their purposes, they changed it, and now after Republicans lost a Texas Senate seat to Democrats, they are changing the rules again.”

Patrick announced his intention to once again lower the threshold in February of this year. 

At the time, several former Republican state senators penned an op-ed in the Caller Times in opposition to the proposed rule change. 

“The two-thirds rule helped root out legislation that was highly controversial and didn’t enjoy widespread support,” they wrote. “This allowed the Senate to stay focused and not get distracted by highly partisan or bitter issues that damage relationships and the integrity of the Senate.”

Photo: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images

fernando@texassignal.com | + posts

Fernando covers Texas politics and government at the Texas Signal. Before joining the Signal, Fernando spent two years at the Houston Chronicle and previously interned at Houston’s NPR station News 88.7. He is a graduate of the University of Houston, Jack J. Valenti School of Communication, and enjoys reading, highlighting things, and arguing on social media. You can follow him on Twitter at @fernramirez93 or email at fernando@texassignal.com

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