As Texas Democrats Consider Return, GOP Voting Bill Still Waits | Texas
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) – Twenty-six days after refusing to return home, Texas Democrats who have now twice blocked a GOP ballot bill face a choice: whether to participate in the third round.
It’s a move that depends in part on whether the group of more than 50 Democratic state lawmakers still in Washington can claim victories so far – and the right answer isn’t as easy as it sounds. would like because Republican Gov. Greg Abbott is starting a third attempt. to revise Texas voting laws in another special session beginning Saturday.
The nationwide protest undoubtedly garnered national attention and stacked scrutiny over GOP pressure to rewrite voting laws after the 2020 election. Setting up camp in a Washington hotel, Democrats in the Texas spent nearly a month meeting with congressional leaders, raised hundreds of thousands of dollars, and torpedoed new election laws in their homes for the second time.
But a COVID-19 outbreak in their ranks soon after their dramatic arrival in Washington slowed their momentum. President Joe Biden has never met them and reports that some Democrats snuck in on vacations to Europe made headlines and mockery of Republicans back home.
At the end of the day, Democrats are in much the same position they were a month ago: without the votes to permanently block the bill in the Texas Capitol, and without the votes to pass federal law in Congress.
“This is not the end,” said State Representative Celia Israel, who was among Democrats who tested positive for COVID-19 after arriving in Washington. “For us, this could be a new awakening to voting rights activism.”
Whether Democrats return to Texas this weekend or not, they have managed to become the face of a national battle over voting rights, sparked by false claims by former President Donald Trump that the 2020 election has been stolen. But many of the same obstacles to victory remain.
In Texas, Republicans have publicly offered no concessions to significantly change voting measures Democrats have now twice blocked from passing, starting with a late-night walkout in May. And in Washington, which Democrats have chosen as a destination to pressure Biden and Congress over voting rights, the biggest obstacle to new federal legislation has not changed: obstruction by Senate Republicans.
It’s a reminder of how breaking the quorum – an ultimate and dramatic ploy to shut down legislative activity – rarely succeeds in the end. If anything, Republicans have only hardened their resolve, with some now eager to further strip Democrats of the little power they have on the Texas Capitol.
Of the 17 issues Abbott ordered the GOP-controlled state house to deal with over the next 30 days, one new one stands out: a measure “relating to legislative quorum requirements.”
“Texas House remains committed to fulfilling its responsibilities upon the return of our fellow Democrats from Washington or their vacation abroad,” Republican House Speaker Dade Phelan said on Friday.
Less than 24 hours before the start of the new session, the Texas Democrats were still in Washington, celebrating their defeat of the first special session. As a caucus, Democrats have not disclosed when or if they will return to Texas. But state representative Eddie Rodriguez said a “vast majority” had pledged not to show up early and continue to prevent a quorum in the state’s House of Representatives.
It would increase the possibility that Democrats would be arrested in an attempt to compel their presence in the House chamber, a threat they have mostly ignored. They also insist that they would not come home empty-handed.
In addition to stopping the GOP voting bill for the second time, Democrats say they have been successful in putting voting rights legislation back at the top of the congressional agenda and shining the spotlight national authorities on the matter. They also took credit for at least one potential change in the most recent bill that Texas Republican Representative Pat Fallon said would be forthcoming: the removal of certain voter identification requirements for postal ballots.
They also rallied supporters and voters back home, including more than $ 700,000 that former congressman Beto O’Rourke, who did not rule out challenging Abbott in 2022, said he raised through his committee of political action.
The resistance was not without stumbling blocks. Shortly after arriving, several Democrats tested positive for COVID-19, limiting their in-person meetings. And although Democrats have met Vice President Kamala Harris twice, they have never met Biden. White House press secretary Jen Psaski said on Thursday that if the legislative timetable calls for Democrats to be in Texas, “we will support this.”
Democratic state representative Trey Martinez Fischer, one of the organizers of the walkouts, said it was important to see lawmakers from other states supporting them in Washington.
“Some people have said that we have moved the needle when it comes to voting rights, and I think we have moved the mountain,” he said.
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