Texas Republicans are considering several strategies. The most radical would be for Gov. Rick Perry to declare the seats of the absconding Democrats vacant and call a special election to fill them. That is not likely to happen because of the cost associated with a special election. A second strategy would be for the House Speaker to strip committee chairmanships from the Democrats. In Texas, a bipartisan policy allows members of the minority party to chair committees. Depriving them of their chairmanships would turn Democrats into political geldings.
Here's what probably will happen. Perry will call a special session of the legislature in June, because the budget must be passed. Republican legislators say at that time they will ram through the redistricting proposal. "It's going to happen," one legislator told me. He also said that Democrats may pay a penalty for leaving the state when some of their bills are not brought up for votes.
The problem for Democrats in Austin and in Washington is that they have failed the ideology test. As Joel Klein writes in a Time magazine cover story this week, Democrats seem to have lost firm convictions about anything and simply pander to the special interest groups who promise them votes.
Democrats used to be the party of grand ideas, but now Republicans are the ones with the ideas and Democrats spend most of their time complaining about them and blowing class-warfare smoke.
Texas Republicans are having fun with the Democrats' walkout. They've created playing cards that resemble most-wanted Iraqis. They've also plastered the faces of the missing Democrats on milk cartons. A comedian wearing a chicken outfit stands outside the legislature with a sign that reads "Chicken D Come Home!"
Call the Democrats Texas toast.
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