GRAPEVINE, Texas (AP) — Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst promised Saturday that a bill toughening abortion restrictions would not be derailed again after screaming protesters this week drowned out state senators and ran out the clock on a vote.
In a new special session that starts July 1, lawmakers will take up the anti-abortion bill again after failing to pass it by midnight Tuesday. Political rivals have questioned Dewhurst's leadership in the Senate and blamed him for the bill's collapse — a chaotic scene broadcast over the Internet.
Dewhurst said Saturday after speaking at the National Right to Life Convention that next time, he'll move to have protesters thrown out if they become disorderly. He said he had tried to get them out Tuesday, though outnumbered troopers in the Capitol were not seen removing most protesters until the early hours of Wednesday.
"Believe me," Dewhurst told reporters. "I have spent most of my time between about 4 a.m. on Wednesday morning and through yesterday making sure that when I give the order ... to clear the gallery, it gets done."
The bill would place new restrictions on abortion clinics and ban the procedure after the 20th week of pregnancy.
In his speech, Dewhurst ripped the crowds opposing a vote as driven by "hatred" and "mob rule." He called on anti-abortion activists to fill hearing rooms and galleries during the next session as their opponents have done, and use social media to broadcast their support using the hashtag "#stand4life."
As for State Sen. Wendy Davis, whose 11-hour filibuster delayed the vote on the session's final day and put her in the national spotlight, Dewhurst said, "No human being can talk for two weeks. This bill is going to pass."
He told reporters he would move quickly on the bill to keep it out of "filibuster range."
Gov. Rick Perry's move to add abortion regulations well into the first special session limited the time senators had to act on it, Dewhurst said.
Dewhurst also backed down from comments published Friday on the conservative website Hot Air, in which he said he'd heard reporters in the Capitol were inciting protesters. He told Hot Air he would "take action" against any reporters who were driving the crowd.
On Saturday, he said he respected reporters and that "the case is closed."
Dewhurst has been lieutenant governor since 2002, and he is running for re-election next year. But a year after he was soundly beaten in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate by Ted Cruz, Dewhurst faces rivals who used Tuesday's episode to question his ability.
Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson said in a letter that Dewhurst "has lost his grip on the reins of the Senate." And state Sen. Dan Patrick, who has also joined the race, said the Senate needs new leadership.
Asked about his opponents, Dewhurst said, "I know it's harder to stay on top than get on top, and I'm going to make sure this state keeps moving forward."
Dewhurst was flanked Saturday by two women from groups that oppose abortion: Texans For Life Coalition president Kyleen Wright and Elizabeth Graham of Texas Right to Life. Wright and Graham said they continued to support the lieutenant governor.
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