- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 11, 2003

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas Republicans’ hopes of adopting a new congressional map have been pushed back by yet another Democratic walkout.

Although the House passed a compromise bill on the redistricting plan Friday, Senate Republicans refused to vote on it later in the day until the House passed an unrelated measure.

When word of the Senate plan began to spread, most House Democrats bolted before a vote on the other bill was called — banking on enough Republicans’ leaving town for the Texas-Oklahoma football game to break the quorum.

After attempts to round up the fleeing lawmakers failed, the House ultimately adjourned until this afternoon.

The Democrats walked out after lawmakers read aloud an e-mail message from an aide to U.S. Rep. Joe L. Barton, Texas Republican, that ridiculed Democrats and gloated over the Republicans’ expected victory.

Mr. Barton’s legislative counsel, Joby Fortson, sent the e-mail message from his personal computer, Mr. Barton’s office said Friday. It was forwarded to Democrats in Austin and in Washington and to news reporters.

“As much as we despise her, she cannot be drawn out … the Queen lives!!!!” Mr. Fortson wrote about Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee, whose Houston district remains Democratic. He also made jabs at two other Democrats and a fellow Republican.

Barton spokeswoman Samantha Jordan said the e-mail message “certainly in no way is reflective” of the congressman’s thinking. She said Mr. Barton has not decided whether to take any disciplinary action.

State Rep. Joe Deshotel, one of the boycotting Democrats, said they hoped to block a final vote during the third special session, which ends Tuesday.

“We may have done it for a fourth time, that’s our goal,” Mr. Deshotel said.

However, Mr. Deshotel acknowledged that as Republicans trickled back into town for the session today, Democrats would be unlikely to maintain an effective boycott of the chamber.

Republican House Speaker Tom Craddick said he wasn’t worried about the fate of the redistricting bill.

“We passed redistricting; we passed the other bills. They [Democrats] can do whatever,” Mr. Craddick said.

Republicans have been trying for six months to pass a new congressional redistricting plan, an issue that sparked three special legislative sessions, two other walkouts by Democrats and infighting among Republicans.

The redistricting is expected to add as many as seven Republican seats to the state’s congressional delegation, where Democrats currently have a 17-15 advantage. Democrats wanted existing congressional district lines to stay in place, saying minorities and rural Texans would lose representation under the new map.

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