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Birther Absurdity Comes to the Texas Legislature

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“For starters, I was f–king born here, how about that? And I got proof! Nothing Photoshopped about my birth certificate.”

—Charlie Sheen

You know you’re in trouble when Charlie Sheen supports you. The “birther movement,”which calls on presidential candidiates to produce their birth certificates, has inspired perhaps one of the dumbest political debates in this country. It made its brief debut in the Texas Legislature Wednesday night.

During a late-night House State Affairs meeting, Rep. Leo Berman, a Tyler Republican, laid out his “birther” bill, House Bill 529, which would require presidential and vice presidential candidates submit their birth certificates to the Texas secretary of state before being placed on the ballot.

The movement originated around allegations that President Barack Obama wasn’t born in the United States. Despite the release of Obama’s birth certificate by Hawaii state officials, many, like Berman, still question the president’s birthright eligiblity. “[Obama] won’t show us anything to show us where he was born,” Berman told the Texas Tribune.

But Berman insists his bill is about upholding the Constitution and has nothing to do with Obama. “I don’t want to bring President Obama into this hearing at all,” Berman told the House panel. “All we want to do in Texas is ensure that the president and vice president fulfill all the requirements laid out in the United States Constitution.”

Supporters of the bill agreed, but inadvertently pointed out some interesting inconsistiancies with Berman’s bill and the entire “birther” movement. Judy Chambers, a witness, cited a case in which a third generation Vietnam vet could not get a passport because he was born at home and didn’t have a hospital record.

“You bring up an interesting point,” Chairman Byron Cook said. According to Cook, his mother could not run for president because she was also born at home and did not have a physician record.

Texas is one of only 10 states that have proposed “birther” bills, but even the most radical anti-immigrant states have failed to pass any such legislation.  Just this week, Arizona’s Governor Jan Brewer—the same Jan Brewer who ardently supported Arizona’s harsh immigration laws—vetoed her state’s  “birther” bill,”  saying it was “a bridge too far.”

Berman seemed eager to go where even Arizona would not. HB 529, “gives Texas the chance to be the number one state in history to have the president and vice president vetted by the secretary of state,” Berman said. Perhaps, but it’s not clear his colleagues in the Legislature share his enthusiasm for the issue. The bill was left pending in committee, and with just six weeks left in the session, seems unlikely to become law.