Senators working to avert partisan meltdown

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - The Texas Senate is veering toward a partisan meltdown today.

That's as Republicans try to push through a proposed rules changed aimed at giving them more influence in the chamber.

The specter of a walkout from Senate Democrats arose after Republican state Sen. Tommy Williams of The Woodlands tried to propose a resolution to modify filibuster procedures. The resolution prompted a series of parliamentary challenges to Republican Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who presides over the Senate.

Dewhurst told senators there were "no rules" in the chamber because they hadn't been adopted yet, and he refused to allow the challenges to go forward.

Democratic Senator Mario Gallegos (gah-YEH'-gohs) of Houston then threatened a Senate Democratic walkout. He said "If we don't have any rules, then we don't have to be here."

Democrats were livid at the proposal to weaken their role by modifying the so-called "two-thirds rule" that gives their members key protections in the legislative process. The fight derailed a morning session today, when senators left the floor to meet secretly behind the chamber.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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