A letter to the Honorable Mike Pence, president of the U.S. Senate; the Honorable Mitch McConnell, Senate majority leader; the Honorable Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the House of Representatives; and members of the Texas delegation to the U.S. Congress: We, the 12 Democrats in the Texas Senate, write to inform you that Texas Senate Resolution 535, which you should receive soon from our 19 Republican colleagues, reflects only their perspective and not ours. The epitome of divisive and disrespectful partisanship in a body that ordinarily is collegial and bipartisan, the resolution was adopted strictly along party lines, without our input, in a secretive process without notice or a public hearing.
Imagine our surprise when our legislative day was interrupted on April 2 as we saw this legislative measure for the first time and realized it was signed by all 19 Republican senators. Its purpose was “(d)eclaring the crisis at the Texas-Mexico International Border an emergency and requesting Congress to adopt a budget that fully funds all means necessary to fully secure the Texas-Mexico international border.”
Our cherished legislative traditions were flagrantly disregarded as the Republican majority suspended Senate Rule 8.02 to hear and adopt the partisan declaration. Directed to you, the resolution concludes “that the Texas Senate supports the President in his efforts to move forward with emergency action” and stresses that “the United States Congress has neglected to fully fund the maintenance, order, and safety of the Texas-Mexico international border.”
With absolutely no notice and no preparation, we Democrats responded immediately and passionately by debating the issue for more than three hours, quickly drafting amendments that were defeated along partisan lines (with one exception), and expressing dismay about this questionable process. It is telling that the only truly bipartisan element of this resolution was an amendment we offered that requests the federal government keep families together and treat immigrants humanely. Otherwise, this does not reflect the true will of the entire body. One by one we questioned why we weren’t involved in the process, why none of the four senators who live along the border was contacted, why the
measure should be adopted without a public hearing, and why the Senate traditions of mutual respect and valued transparency were disregarded.
Senate Rule 8.02 requires substantive resolutions to be referred to a Senate committee for a public hearing and consideration, rather than heard immediately in the Senate. Because SR 535 is significantly more substantive than most resolutions and contains unsubstantiated, unverified and regrettably politicized assertions, it would have benefited from a full vetting in a public hearing. Instead, we had perhaps three minutes between the time the resolution was distributed and the rule was suspended to allow immediate debate and voting without a public hearing. It was a sad day for the Texas Senate.
Vehemently opposed to the secretive process by which this important matter was presented to the Senate and much of the content we, the undersigned, voted against it. We respectfully request that you share our letter with anyone who receives a copy of SR 535 and that you enter it in the Congressional Record if the resolution is.
Senate District 29 El Paso
Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa
District 20 McAllen
District 16 Dallas
Eddie Lucio Jr.
District 27 Brownsville
District 26 San Antonio
District 13 Houston
District 10 Burleson
District 14 Austin
District 23 Dallas
District 15 Houston
District 21 Laredo
District 6 Houston