Texas Democrats fled the state on Monday in an effort to block the passage of new Republican-backed voting restrictions, The New York Times reports.
Democrats walked out of an earlier session to block the passage of a sweeping bill that would restrict mail voting and crack down on expanded ballot access in areas like Houston. But Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, called a 30-day special session to pass the bill and several other priorities.
A group of 51 of the state’s 67 House Democrats on Monday fled the state to Washington D.C. to deny Republicans quorum, which is needed to advance legislation. The group had to flee the state because state law allows state police to round up lawmakers and bring them to the state capitol for votes.
The move could paralyze the legislature for weeks if Democrats remain out-of-state until the special session ends. But the gambit is unlikely to derail the bill, merely delay it.
“It’s just delaying the inevitable,” House Elections Committee Chairman Briscoe Cain said. “We will eventually get it done, this special or another.”
Texas Dems press DC Dems:
The Texas group flew to DC to pressure Senate Democrats to advance federal voting rights legislation which has stalled amid opposition from centrist West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin and filibustering Republicans.
“We have to decide if we are going to stand for democracy,” said state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, who organized the effort. “We want the nation to join us and we want the U.S. Senate to hear us and act.”
The move came ahead of President Joe Biden’s big speech in Philadelphia on voting rights. But on Monday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that Biden would not call on the Senate to carve out an exemption in the filibuster rule to advance the voting rights legislation despite calling the slew of new Republican voting restrictions “the worst challenge to our democracy since the Civil War.”
“We need them to act now because they will keep calling these special sessions to pass voter suppression legislation,’’ said Chris Turner, the Democratic caucus chairman. “So we need Congress to act now. The clock is ticking, they’ve got to act before the August recess.”
Abbott vows arrests:
Abbott vowed that the Democrats who fled would be arrested upon their return.
"Once they step back into the state they will be arrested and brought back to the Capitol and we will be conducting business," Abbott told Fox News.
"We have special sessions that last 30 days," he added. "And the governor calls them, and I will continue calling special session after special session because over time it is going to continue until they step up to vote."