Less than a day after a dramatic scene in the Texas Senate over a bill to ban intrusive searches from the TSA at airports in Texas, a key state senator said Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst had effectively killed the measure for good.
"He came up with this elaborate political play to kill the bill without his fingerprints," state Sen. Dan Patrick said. "Well, his fingerprints are all over this."
Some of the bill's supporters expressed their outrage Wednesday at its apparent demise, reportedly marching through the Capitol halls and shouting "treason."
Patrick said he believed he had support of 30 of 31 senators when he brought the bill to the Senate floor. That changed when the bill came up for debate. What appeared to shift sentiment was threats from the TSA that passing the measure could lead to the shutting down of airports in Texas.
Patrick said Wednesday afternoon that he now has the support of about a dozen Senators, not enough to bring the measure up for a vote, let alone pass it.
The TSA has been actively campaigning against the measure for weeks. The agency blogged its opposition after the measure passed the House. Then on Tuesday, U.S. Attorney John Murphy sent Dewhurst and House Speaker Joe Straus a letter explaining that passing a measure that violates federal law would cause problems. Specifically, the TSA would have to request an emergency stay on the new law. Until that happened, TSA would have to cancel any flights where it couldn’t ensure the safety of the passengers.
Both Patrick and Rep David Simpson, the bill’s house sponsor, said they were planning an amendment to delay the bill’s implementation by six months in order to give the federal government time to figure out a way to comply. Patrick said he believed the amendment would have properly addressed the TSA’s concerns.
Patrick said Dewhurst “sideswiped” him Tuesday evening by turning members against the bill. “I hear he’s thinking about running for governor,” Patrick said. “I hear he’s thinking about running for senator. In the last 24 hours, he’s given me some things to think about.”
Earlier in the afternoon, Simpson sat on the Senate floor waiting to talk to Senators about the bill. He still held out hope for a vote. His anger with the Senate was palpable.
"I guess we’ll see what kind of courage these people have," Simpson said.
UPDATE: Dewhurst spokesman Mike Walz sent this response to Patrick's comments:
"Lt. Governor Dewhurst agreed to move forward with a vote on House Bill 1937 and it was introduced yesterday. During the course of debate, several Senators withdrew their support for the bill and it was pulled down by the sponsor, Senator Dan Patrick, after it became clear that the bill lacked the requisite votes to pass. Lt. Governor Dewhurst is concerned about the invasiveness of airport security screening procedures and supports the rights of law-abiding passengers."