Now what? Texas Democrats have a very difficult choice to make
Abbott’s move places the blame firmly on Texas State House Democrats, who have been living (and working) out of state for almost a month now. (The group left the state on July 12 to deprive Republicans of a quorum, meaning the election bill couldn’t even be debated, let alone voted on.)
The question for these Democrats, who have been in Washington since mid-July, do they do next? Of course, they can stay in Washington for the duration of this next special session, effectively calling Abbott’s bluff. But what if he lives up to this chicken game and calls another special session after this one expires? And another? And another?
Abbott could effectively keep these state lawmakers out of state for an indefinite period. Far from their home. Their families. Their daily routines. And all of this comes at a time when the Delta variant of Covid-19 has made us all feel more vulnerable to the virus than we have in months, with many people crouching at or near home to stay in. security. (If lawmakers returned to Texas, Abbott could use law enforcement to round them up and force them to be in the chamber to conduct legislative business.)
There is also every reason to believe that Abbott will keep his promise to continue calling special sessions. And there is a precise and obvious reason for that: it is great politics for him.
And Abbott also has an eye on the 2024 GOP presidential bid. This fight, which has garnered tons of national attention and media coverage, is a huge boon to those ambitions. Before all of this, Abbott was not well known outside of Texas. The longer this gaze with Texas Democrats (and Nationals) lasts, the more it is known – and appreciated – by voters who will decide the identity of the 2024 candidate.
Considering all of this, there’s every reason to believe Abbott won’t blink. And because they want to, you know, go home at some point, lawmakers in Democratic states are much more likely to step down.
At this point, the debate within their group should not be whether they will eventually come back to the state and in doing so allow Republicans to pass the electoral bill. The question is when do they give in and if they can get any concessions from Abbott or Republicans in the state legislature for it.