Texas Democrats flee to Washington DC to stop vote on GOP voter restriction bills

·3 min read

Texas House Democrats left for Washington D.C. on Monday in an effort to block passage of Republican-backed voter laws.

“Today, Texas House Democrats stand united in our decision to break quorum and refuse to let the Republican-led legislature force through dangerous legislation that would trample on Texans’ freedom to vote,” the Texas House Democratic Caucus said in a statement.

They said they plan to pressure Democrats in the U.S. Senate, who have been unable to pass federal legislation on voting rights, and to protest the voting bills in the Texas Legislature.

“We are now taking the fight to our nation’s Capitol. We are living on borrowed time in Texas,” the statement read. “We need Congress to act now to pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act to protect Texans — and all Americans — from the Trump Republicans’ nationwide war on democracy.”

Democrats killed voting legislation when they walked out in May, hours before the session ended, spurring Republican Gov. Greg Abbott to call a special session that began Thursday.

After the Democrats walked out in May, Abbott vetoed a section of the state budget that funds the pay for lawmakers, their staffs and legislative agencies. That accounts for roughly 2,000 Capitol employees. The cuts will take effect in September unless the Legislature restores the funding during the special session.

House Speaker Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, said in a statement that Democrats risk state funding that will deny thousands of hard-working staff members and their families a paycheck. Abbott said in a statement that Democrats’ decision to prevent a quorum harms the people they were elected to serve.

Democrats last fled the state in 2003, when they went to New Mexico and Oklahoma in an effort to avoid Republican legislation to redraw the state’s congressional districts. Back then, the Texas Rangers were dispatched to try to round them up and return them to the statehouse for votes.

If Democrats stay out of the state, Abbott can continue to call 30-day sessions or add voting restrictions to the agenda when the Legislature takes on the redrawing of the state’s political maps later this year.

Phelan told Austin television station KXAN last week that “all options are on the table” if Democrats were to revolt a second time but did not elaborate.

State Sen. Bryan Hughes, a Tyler Republican who authored both election laws, said over the weekend that the legislation had become “bitterly partisan.”

In the special session, Texas Republicans began to advance election bills that would ban drive-thru voting, add new voter ID requirements to absentee ballots, and prohibit local elections officials from proactively sending mail-in ballot applications to voters.

Other items on the special session agenda include:

  • Bail overhaul.

  • Border security.

  • Social media censorship

  • Legislative branch funding.

  • Family violence prevention.

  • Limiting access to school sports teams for transgender students.

  • Abortion-inducing drugs.

  • An additional payment for retired Texas teachers.

  • Critical race theory.

  • Other budgetary issues.

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