A majority of the Democrats in the Texas House of Representatives traveled to Washington, DC Monday afternoon to once again deny Republicans the quorum needed to pass new 26-day voting restrictions in a special legislative session convened primarily for that purpose .
by Alexa Ura and Cassandra Pollock
July 12, 2021
Updated: 12 hours ago
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The Texas Democrats left the state on Monday afternoon on their way to Washington , DC to once again deny Republicans the quorum needed to pass new 26 day voting restrictions in a special legislative session convened primarily for that purpose Also in the national debate on the right to vote, most House Democrats boarded two planes from Austin that were flying to the US capital with no set return date. At least 51 of the 67 Democratic officials – the number required to break the quorum – were about to leave Monday afternoon, with most arriving at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport on Monday to board charter flights that departed around 3:10 PM O’clock.
The House of Representatives is due to meet again Tuesday morning, but the Democratic absence would mean there won’t be enough members to do business by house rules.
« Today the Democrats are in Texas House united in our decision to break the quorum and refuse to enforce the Republican-led legislature through dangerous laws that would trample on Texans’ freedom of choice, « Democratic leaders said in a joint statement released Monday was.
With the national political spotlight on Texas efforts to further restrict the right to vote , The Democratic Exodus provides them with a platform to continue asking Congress to restore federal protection for colored voters. In Texas, the move will mark a more aggressive stance by the Democrats to block Republican legislation that further tightens the state’s electoral rules as the GOP works against thinning nationwide margins of victory.
Ultimately, the Democrats lack the votes to Keeping the Republican-controlled legislature from passing new voting restrictions, along with the other Conservative priorities on Governor Greg Abbott’s 11-point agenda for the special session.
Some Democrats hope their absence gives them the opportunity To force in good faith negotiations with Republicans who they say have largely excluded from negotiating the Voting Bill. Both chambers put their legislation forward from the party line voting committees after overnight hearings and distributed the bills early Sunday morning after hearing testimonies mostly against the proposals for hours and just days after their revived proposals were published. The bills were expected to go to a vote in the House and Senate this week.
The House and Senate proposals resemble a failed piece of legislation known as Senate Bill 7 from the regular spring legislative session – the downfall of which the Texans did Democrats used last month to campaign for voting rights on Capitol Hill.
On Monday, Democrats announced they were renewing their calls for Congress to pass sweeping federal laws that prevent substantial parts of Texas bills would restore federal oversight of elections in states with troubling budgets.
« We are now leading the fight to our nation’s capitol, » the Democrats said in their statement. “We live on borrowed time in Texas.”
The Democrats gathered in a local plumbing union building and boarded a bus that took them to a private airport terminal. They arrived at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport shortly after 2:30 p.m. and drove straight onto the tarmac.
Legislators did not speak to the media before leaving. Terminal staff kept reporters off the premises and outside on the street. Around 3 p.m., several legislative supporters gathered in front of the terminal and held up signs that read: “Let my people vote” and “Thank you for fighting the oppression of the voters”.
Most of the Democrats in the House of Representatives met around 7 p.m. in Washington DC a. Central time Monday.
Even if Democratic lawmakers stay out of the state for the next few weeks, the governor could still call 30-day sessions or put voting restrictions on the agenda if the lawmakers redraw the state’s political maps later this summer.
The mass exit on Monday follows a Democratic strike in May that prevented Republicans from passing their priority vote law at the end of the regular term. For weeks, the Democrats had hinted that skipping the city during the special session would remain an option as Republicans prepare for a second attempt to tighten the state’s electoral laws.
House Speaker Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, said in a statement later Monday that the chamber « will use every available resource under the Texas Constitution and house rules passed unanimously to secure a quorum … » Meanwhile, Governor Greg Abbott pardoned the Democrats about the move, saying that he « harms the Texans they have chosen to serve ».
« As they fly around the country in comfortable private planes, they leave issues open that can help their districts and our state, » said Abbott in a statement Monday afternoon. « The Democrats have to put aside party political games and get back to the job they were chosen for. »
According to the house rules adopted at the beginning of the ordinary session, two-thirds of the 150-member chamber must be present to conduct business. During the session of the House of Representatives, lawmakers can vote to close the chamber doors to prevent colleagues from leaving the house and instruct law enforcement to track down lawmakers who have already fled.
If there is no quorum when the House convenes on Tuesday is in place, any member of the House can make what is known as an appeal to the House « to secure and maintain a quorum » to consider a particular law, resolution, or motion in the House Rules. This proposal must be supported by 15 members and ordered by a majority of votes. When that happens, the missing Democrats will become legislative refugees.
“Any absentee for whom there is no adequate excuse can, by order of the majority of those present, be fetched and arrested by the sergeant or an officer appointed by the sergeant, wherever they are to find oneself. Weapons for this purpose, and their presence will be secured and maintained, ”it says in the house rules. “The House determines the terms and conditions under which they will be fired.” However, it is unclear what options Phelan may have to force Democrats to return to the legislature when they are out of state.
The House of Representatives voting bill passed by the committee over the weekend would restrict local voting initiatives such as drive-thru and 24-hour voting, further tighten rules on postal voting, strengthen access for partisan election observers, and prohibit local election officials from proactively sending motions to request Postal ballot papers.
The Democrats’ departure also calls into question other items on the agenda of Abbott’s special session, including funding legislation for the legislature. Last month Abbott vetoed part of the state budget that finances the legislature for the two-year fiscal cycle that begins September 1st. He did so in retaliation for the Democratic strike in May. If the legislature does not pass a supplementary budget before the start of the new cycle, more than 2,100 legislative staff and individuals serving in legislative bodies could be affected.
Corrigendum, July 12, 2021: In an early version of this story, the number of remaining days in the special legislative session incorrectly specified. It’s 26, not 27.
July 8, 2021
Updated: June 18, 2021
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