Texplainer: What is Chubbing?

Hey, Texplainer: I've heard several references to something called "chubbing" in the Texas Legislature. What is it? An attack on overweight lawmakers?

If there's one thing that politicians are good at, it's talking. And chubbing is a kind of talking that's used to stall legislation.

With a Republican majority in the House and Senate, Democrats have to rely on something other than their voting strength in a fight. The filibuster is the classic example, but that's allowed only in the Senate. 

The long-winded House counterpart is known as "chubbing." To chub a bill, representatives extend their conversations on legislation that's closer to the front of the line, wasting time and slowly closing the window of opportunity to vote on the bill they don't like. The term "chubbing" first appeared in Texas newspapers in the 1950s, according to the Legislative Reference Library, and the Oxford Dictionary of American Political Slang cites the term as uniquely Texan in origin, but provides no insight on its etymology (On his blog, state Rep. Aaron Peña, R-Edinburg, offers a somewhat convoluted but fascinating theory on its origin). 

The difference between a filibuster and a chub lies in the amount of time a member can hold the floor. Senators can talk as long as they like, so long as their comments relate to the bill at hand. 

 

The House has time limits. A representative has 10 minutes to speak but can go longer if a majority approves. If the majority wants to get things moving, the minority has to find another way to slow progress. They chub, using the full 10 minutes on each piece of legislation in front of their target, delaying consideration until the majority gives up or the legislative clock runs out.

For example, in 2009, House Democrats effectively chubbed to death a voter ID bill by delaying debate on it in the final days of the legislative session. As lawmakers approached the ultimate deadline — the end of the 140-day legislative session — hope for the voter ID bill faded and then evaporated completely.

Voter ID, of course, is back this year. Gov. Rick Perry made it an emergency item, allowing the Legislature to consider the bill during the first 60 days of the session in part to limit the ability of opponents to chub the legislation. Last week, the Senate approved it and sent it along to the House. And two days earlier, the House passed a resolution to limit the use of chubbing. It says debate on noncontroversial Local and Consent calendar bills cannot last past midnight. So, without the votes to win, and without an end-of-session deadline to use as leverage, House Democrats will have to try to find some other way out of this one.  

Bottom line: Legislators in the House have the power to talk something to death, but in this session it will be harder to do than in the past.

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