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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Texas Dems Defeat Bill from Oklahoma

Aired May 15, 2003 - 19:08   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Unless there's a vote by midnight tonight, a bill to redraw the congressional districts in Texas will die in the state legislature. And we know there will not be a vote because 51 Democratic members of the Texas House went to Oklahoma, which prevented a quorum.
Ed Lavandera is with them and reports the victory celebration is under way.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I haven't heard from our speaker, but we did hear from a powerfully important Texan. From Willie Nelson, "Way to go. Stand your ground."

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Before the Texas Democrats get on the road again back to Austin, Texas, Willie Nelson treated them to bandannas and bottles of scotch. That might be the last gift they see for awhile.

Ron Wilson is one of the few Democrats that didn't make the middle of the night dash to Oklahoma. He says his fellow Democrats better hope their chairs are still on the House floor when they get back Friday.

RON WILSON (D), TEXAS STATE HOUSE: I'm not going to say there will be retribution, but there will be a natural, I think, tension. I think if they come back and assume that everything's going to be hunky-dory, I think they're, you know, they're mistaken.

LAVANDERA: Republicans aren't talking about political retribution, but they say about 500 bills were killed because of this political stunt, bills which Republicans say would have generated $600 million in revenue for the state.

(on camera): What has this done for the reputation of Texas politics? What do you think?

TOM CRADDICK (R), TEXAS HOUSE SPEAKER: Well, I think it's harmed it. I think -- I don't think there's anything else you can say, but that. We're on the late-night talk shows and things like that, and I think that harms the image of the state overall.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): While the words chickens and cowards aren't being thrown around any more, the political fighting hasn't slowed down.

The latest fight is over Democratic allegations that state police asked federal authorities to trail the plane of former House speaker Pete Laney as he was flying to Oklahoma Sunday night.

Homeland security director Tom Ridge says he'll look into whether anyone used federal resources improperly, but he's skeptical of the charges.

TOM RIDGE, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: They're trying to find a bunch of disgruntled legislators. That's not part of our mission nor would it ever be.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LAVANDERA: Now you heard from one of the Democrats there, Ron Wilson from Houston who did not make the trip up north. He says the reason he didn't go is he actually would have voted for the districting bill along with the Republicans because he says it would have created an extra congressional seat for African-Americans in Texas, but not all Democrats agree with him.

Now as far as the Democrats are concerned, they're planning a rally here in front of the state capitol in Austin. They'll start gathering in the morning to welcome home the Democrats as they make their way back in the early morning hours back here to the state capitol in Austin -- Anderson.

COOPER: Ed, just a bizarre story. Thank you very much.

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