Examine the strategies used by U.S. lawmakers to block legislation
May 14, 2003
Web posted at: 10:35 PM EDT (0235 GMT)
Overview: The Texas House of Representatives has been silent since Monday, when about 50 Democrats walked out on debate and took up residence in an Oklahoma hotel. Democrats think that a Republican plan to redistrict parts of the state could cost them as many as five seats in the U.S. Congress. In order to avoid the redistricting vote, they have literally left their home state.
After students read "Texas Democrats head to Oklahoma over political polemic" present the following questions:
1. Have students locate Texas and Oklahoma on Holt, Rinehart and Winston's map of the United States (http://go.hrw.com/atlas/norm_htm/usa.htm). Then ask students: Why did a group of 50 Texas Democrats walk out of the Texas legislature on Tuesday? Where in Oklahoma is the group currently residing? How has the walkout has affected business at the Texas House? What message did the group have for U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay, the majority leader in the U.S. House of Representatives? How have Texas Republican leaders responded to the Democratic walkout? Under what conditions will the Democrats return to the Texas state capital in Austin?
2. Inform students that a filibuster is a tactic used to delay debate or to block legislation. Have students explain in their own words how Texas Democrats are using filibustering to stop congressional redistrictioning in their state. Then, point out that each state legislature has its own tactics for blocking the passage of laws. Direct students to multimedia resources, including those provided, to learn more about the legislative process at the congressional and state levels and the legislative strategies used by lawmakers to stall the passage of bills. After students present their findings, ask: Are these strategies, including filibustering, necessary mechanisms? State your rationale.