AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas Senate voted on party lines to approve a resolution declaring an emergency at the Texas-Mexico border Tuesday afternoon.
Senate Resolution 535 (SR535), by Houston Republican Senator Paul Bettencourt, came as a surprise to Senate Democrats. It was not listed on the calendar, was not heard in a committee and the Democrats never saw the bill before Tuesday when it was passed out to them on the Senate floor as Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick called it up for a vote.
Because the Democrats are outnumbered in the Senate 19 to 12, the Republicans were able to vote to suspend the rules and call the resolution up for a vote.
SR535 declares the "crisis" at the Texas-Mexico border an emergency and requests Congress adopt a budget to fully fund "all means necessary to fully secure the Texas-Mexico international border."
It also states, "The Texas Senate supports the President in his efforts to move forward with emergency action."
President Donald Trump previously declared the border an emergency in an effort to fund his border wall – an action that was overturned by a bi-partisan vote of Congress.
The resolution doesn't result in action at the border, but rather a copy of the resolution will be sent to the members of Congress, stating how Texas lawmakers feel.
While Senate Democrats knew nothing of the resolution, all of the Senate Republicans signed on as co-authors, which further fueled questions from Senate Democrats about why Sen. Bettencourt didn't talk to or work with the senators who actually represent the border when crafting the legislation.
During the three-hour long debate on the resolution, Democrats said they were "ambushed" and questioned the urgency, arguing they could have worked together to craft a resolution that was more substantive and included the views of the full Senate. They called it "partisan politics," tried to have it sent to committee and offered amendments, all of which failed to pass.
Sen. Bettencourt argued he only asked senators to be co-authors who he knew would "quickly" sign on. He added the way it was called to the floor for a vote is a testament to the urgency and importance of the resolution.
At times, the debate was heated and tense. One such moment was when Sen. Borris Miles (D-Houston) called out Sen. Bettencourt for referring to a portion of his district as the "ghettos of Gulfton," instructing him to never refer to that area as a ghetto, especially if he wasn't willing to pass legislation giving the residents there more resources.
Debate on the bill ended with Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas) declaring he and the other Democrats would craft their own letter to send to Congress, detailing how the resolution was passed and voicing their opposition to it.
Click here to watch the full debate. Note: debate on SR535 begins around 2:38:00.
On Wednesday, Sen. José Rodríguez (D-El Paso) tweeted the Senate Democrats letter to Congress opposing the emergency declaration:
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