Dewhurst blames 'unruly mob' for abortion bill failure

AUSTIN -- Following a titanic and raucous political drama, top Texas Republicans conceded that they failed to pass new abortion restrictions expected to close almost every abortion clinic in the nation's second most populous state.

AUSTIN -- Following a titanic and raucous political drama, top Texas Republicans conceded that they failed to pass new abortion restrictions expected to close almost every abortion clinic in the nation's second most populous state.

Confusion reigned at the Capitol in the hours after a midnight vote.

As the protesters raised the noise to deafening levels in the Texas Senate chamber late Tuesday, Republicans scrambled to gather their colleagues at the podium for a stroke-of-midnight vote.

"Get them out!" Sen. Donna Campbell (R-New Braunfels) shouted to a security guard, pointing to the thundering crowd in the gallery overhead that had already been screaming for more than 10 minutes.

"Time is running out," Campbell pleaded. "I want them out of here!"

It didn't work. The noise never stopped and it was nearly 3 a.m. before Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst confirmed that Senate Bill 5 was dead because the chamber did not meet the special session's midnight deadline.

"Regrettably, the constitutional time for the 83rd Legislature had expired," Dewhurst announced from the podium at 3:02 a.m. "Senate Bill 5 cannot be signed in the presence of the Senate at this time, and therefore cannot be enrolled."

He denounced the more than 400 protesters who staged what they called "a people's filibuster" from 11:45 p.m. to well past midnight. He denied mishandling the debate.

"I didn't lose control (of the chamber). We had an unruly mob," Dewhurst said.

He then hinted at a second special session, which Gov. Rick Perry could summon in the upcoming hours.

"It's over. It's been fun. But see you soon," the lieutenant governor said.

"The people... united... will never be defeated!" chanted pro-choice supporters who learned the news while waiting in the Capitol rotunda. They followed that with an impromptu rendition of "The Eyes of Texas."

The Republican-controlled Senate voted for the abortion bill while hundreds of protesters screamed from the gallery. Reporters and Democrats saw the voting begin after midnight, but Dewhurst earlier said it began just before.

Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston) initially told News 8 the bill passed 19-10 in a vote that he said was taken before the midnight deadline.

Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas) maintained that the vote happened after midnight. He said Democrats will raise a challenge.

As evidence, opponents of the abortion bill produced two printouts of the final vote from the legislature's computer system.

The special legislative session ended at midnight, and Democrats -- led by Sen. Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) -- spent most of the day filibustering the bill. Republicans cited rules to eventually force a vote to end the filibuster.

Sen. Kirk Watson (D-Austin) appealed the chair's decision, and parliamentary discussions continued past 11:30 p.m. as the midnight deadline approached.

Then, with less than 15 minutes left on the clock, Sen. Leticia Van de Putte (D-Bexar County) triggered a sustained eruption from the gallery after posing this pointed question to the chair:

"At what point must a female representative raise her hand or voice to be recognized over her male colleagues in the room?"

The cheers appeared to bring all business on the Senate floor to a halt. "Wendy! Wendy! Wendy!" the gallery chanted with less than five minutes until midnight.

The clock appeared to expire with no further legislative action possible under the special session rules, but that's not how Senate Republicans viewed it.

"It was worth it," Sen. Davis said when asked about the filibuster that fell short. "Today was democracy in action."

She predicted a constitutional fight over whether the vote on Senate Bill 5 happened before midnight.

Veteran journalists covering the Capitol said they had never seen anything like what happened on Tuesday night, a sentiment that was echoed by Sen. Watson.

"Here we are in probably what is the worst night since I've been in the Senate and since I've been in public life," the former Austin mayor said. "There has been an effort at every moment to try and stop this filibuster."

In a tweet at 1:15 a.m. Wednesday, Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa offered this reaction: "No matter what happens, we have already won. Texas will never be the same again."

Gov. Rick Perry could still summon lawmakers back for a second special session to consider issues that were not addressed.

The abortion bill bans the procedure after 20 weeks of pregnancy and requires that all procedures take place in a surgical center.

Doctors who perform abortions would also need admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles. The surgical center requirement would shut down 37 of Texas' 42 abortion clinics, leaving just one in Dallas, one in Austin, one in San Antonio and two in Houston.

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