AUSTIN, Texas - Democrats in the Texas Legislature have left the state in a second revolt against a GOP overhaul of election laws, creating another dramatic showdown over voting rights in America.
The group was greeted by a handful of supporters at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport before leaving on July 12 for Washington, D.C.
"We are doing our jobs. We were elected to represent our constituents and fight for our constituents' interests, and that is why we are here. Because we are not going to sit in Austin in the House Chamber and watch the Republican majority steamroll the voting rights of our constituents. We're fighting back," said Democratic State Rep. Chris Turner of Arlington, in a press conference in D.C. Monday night.
"There is nothing special about this special session - this is a suppression session, this is a session to suppress our voting rights. And every man and woman standing here, and those Democrats that we know that are safe and secure in other states - we're not going to put up with that. Democracy is on the line, the eyes of the nation are on Texas," said Democratic State Rep. Trey Martinez Fisher of San Antonio.
Texas House Democratic Caucus Chair Chris Turner, Mexican American Legislative Caucus Chair Rafael Anchía, Texas Legislative Black Caucus Chair Nicole Collier, Legislative Study Group Caucus Chair Garnet Coleman and Dean Senfronia Thompson released the following statement on the decision to break quorum:
"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.
"We are now taking the fight to our nation’s Capitol. We are living on borrowed time in Texas. 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."
The Democratic lawmakers who left Austin left before the GOP could take a first vote on a voting bill in the current special legislative session.
By leaving just days after Republican Gov. Greg Abbott convened a special legislative session, Democrats would again deny the GOP majority a quorum to pass bills, barely a month after their walkout in the state House of Representatives thwarted the first push for sweeping new voting restrictions in Texas — including outlawing 24-hour polling places, banning ballot drop boxes and empowering partisan poll watchers.
It marks the first time since 2003 that Texas Democrats, shut out of power in the state Capitol for decades, have crossed state lines to break quorum.
The drastic move lays bare how Democrats are making America’s biggest red state their last stand against the GOP’s rush to enact new voting restrictions in response to former President Donald Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him. More than a dozen states this year have already passed tougher election laws — but only in Texas have Democrats put up this kind of fight.
Over the weekend, Texas Republicans began advancing new election bills in the Legislature that also bring back provisions to 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.
On Tuesday, House Republicans are expected to take action to try and legally compel Democrats to return to the Capitol.
REACTION TO THE DEMOCRATIC WALKOUT
In an interview on Fox News’ "The Ingraham Angle" last night, Gov. Abbott said he would have the Texas House members who left arrested when they return to Texas.
The governor said the actions of the lawmakers affect many key issues which are planned to be discussed this week. "We can do none of those things because of this junket. The Democrats wanted to just abandon their job, not do their job, but expect to get paid for it."
"Listen I can call special session after special session until we get these items passed," Abbott added.
The governor issued the following statement as well:
"Texas Democrats’ decision to break a quorum of the Texas Legislature and abandon the Texas State Capitol inflicts harm on the very Texans who elected them to serve. As they fly across the country on cushy private planes, they leave undone issues that can help their districts and our state.
- property tax relief,
- funding to support Sheriffs and law enforcement in high crime areas,
- funding for children in foster care, and,
- funding for retired teachers.
The Democrats must put aside partisan political games and get back to the job they were elected to do. Their constituents must not be denied these important resources simply because their elected representative refused to show up to work."
In a statement, Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan said, "The special session clock is ticking—I expect all members to be present in our Capitol in order to immediately get to work on these issues."
But Democratic Congressman Lloyd Doggett defended state House Democrats said in a statement, "These courageous leaders are defending our democracy."
Texas senator Eddie Lucio, who was a part of a Democratic group who left the state in a previous session, said doing this typically won't stop a bill and could hurt them.
"I just can't speak for them and what their thoughts are. I don't think all of them will be walking out obviously. They could lose their chairmanship, they could become ineffective to help other democrats that are in the house. I think there will be repercussions. I hope not," said Lucio
Progress Texas, an organization that promotes progressive messages and actions, sent out an email in response to the walkout saying it "will also prevent movement on other extreme agenda items, including the GOP’s attacks on transgender children and abortion care."
President of Progress Texas Ed Espinoza issued the following statement in the email:
"Texas Democrats have been called on by constituents to take a stand and protect voting rights. Walkouts are a perfectly legitimate form of legislative protest, and in this case, a crucial tool to help save our democracy."
"Texas Republicans refused to negotiate with their Democratic colleagues and ignored testimony from hundreds of Texans who spoke in opposition to voter suppression bills this weekend. At this point, there was no other option. US Senate Democrats must step up to stop these attacks on democracy by ending the filibuster and passing the For the People Act and John Lewis Voting Rights Act."
"Gov. Abbott refused to call a special session on the energy grid, Hurricane Harvey, COVID response, or gun violence, but he called one for voter suppression. Abbott also unconstitutionally stripped the Legislature’s funding to coerce lawmakers into advancing his voter suppression agenda. Any reasonable person can see that what Abbott and the Texas GOP are doing is unacceptable."