AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — This time when the Texas Senate takes up tough new abortion restrictions, the chamber's top Republican is determined not to let anything — or anyone — derail a vote.
The Senate's leader, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, has scheduled a vote for Friday on the same restrictions on when, where and how women may obtain abortions in Texas that failed to become law after a Democratic filibuster and raucous protesters were able to run out the clock on an earlier special session.
But when protesters arrive at the state Capitol on Friday, dozens of extra police officers will be waiting for them, guarding the gallery and lining the hallways. For those who break the rules, the Texas Constitution gives Dewhurst the authority to jail them for up to 48 hours, no court necessary.
"We're going to have strict enforcement. If there are any demonstrations, we are going to clear the gallery," Dewhurst said Thursday. "I hope we don't get to that point but if we do, we do. This is a democracy and we will not be interrupted from doing the people's work by an unruly mob."
Every person who enters the gallery will be issued a copy of the "rules of decorum" that stipulate there can be no demonstrations or attempts to disrupt the chamber's work. Dewhurst plans to have more police on stand-by in case things get out of control.
For Dewhurst, who lost control of the Senate to what he called an "unruly mob" during a debate on abortion two weeks ago, his political survival relies on passing House Bill 2. Once considered a formidable politician, Dewhurst bid goodbye to his Senate colleagues in 2011, expecting to easily win a U.S. Senate seat. But tea party favorite Ted Cruz painted him as a moderate, and now he has three challengers in the Republican primary.