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Democrats threaten to shut down the House over abortion bill

UPDATED: House Democrats are threatening to effectively shut down the chamber this morning if the GOP leadership doesn't promise to shelve an abortion bill.

Under a procedural rule, the House needs a 2/3 vote to consider Senate bills that haven't received a House hearing before. This puts Democrats -- outnumbered 76-44 -- in the unusual position of controlling the agenda. It takes 80 votes to meet the threshold.

"We don't have any interest in debating the issues regarding abortion," said Rep. Jim Waldman, a House Democratic leader, who suggested the House needs to focus on the budget. "It was thrown in at the last minute and hasn't gone through any committees for discussion. There's no reason to do it."

In a morning caucus meeting, Democratic lawmakers voted not to allow any Senate bills in messages to get considered as a protest to the controversial abortion language senators added Wednesday to HB 1143. One amendment requires women who seek abortions to have an ultrasound and have the images of the fetus described to them in most cases. The other prohibits the use of state or federal dollars for abortions. Another amendment would bolster the Florida Attorney General's health care lawsuit against the federal government.

Democratic lawmakers flexed their muscle first thing when the House began work, rejecting the consideration of an innocuous measure, SB 2584 Handbill Distribution. Sensing the tide, the House then took an hour long break.

But Republicans appeared unfazed by the development. House GOP officials said they don't care if the bills die. The legislation in jeopardy: SB 2320 restricting students ability to wear saggy pants; SB 2584 to crack down people who distribute fraudulent fliers; and SB 86 to give breastfeeding mothers a break from jury service.

Waldman said no bills are dead yet."We are basically sending a message to them: don't waste your time bringing bills over here requiring a 2/3 vote," he said.

But it doesn't keep the GOP from taking up HB 1143, which includes the abortion language. It is still in the Senate awaiting a final vote but it passed the House before the amendments were added, so it doesn't need a waiver of rules to get heard.

"We look forward to taking up" to abortion bill, said Todd Reid, the staff director in the House GOP office.