Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott railed at state Democrats who fled a legislative session for Washington, D.C., on Monday to deny a quorum ahead of the expected passage of a voter integrity bill, vowing to have them arrested upon their return.
At least 58 of the 67 Democratic members of the state House of Representatives left the capital on busses which took them to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport where most boarded two chartered flights at a cost of about $100,000, according to reports.
The Texas House is set to reconvene with about 25 days left in a special legislative session called largely to consider and pass a new voter reform bill that tightens rules aimed at ensuring that elections are as fair as they are secure and trustworthy.
“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,” Democratic leaders said in a joint statement on Monday.
(Credit: Fox News)
Texas Democrats traveled to the nation’s capital to press their party’s thin congressional majority to pass voter reforms that will essentially nationalize elections for federal office and override current balloting laws and rules in all 50 states. Changes include ditching voter ID, banning the process of cleaning up voter registration rolls, extending early voting in all states, and expanding the use of ballot drop boxes, all of which Republicans say will destroy any semblance of voter integrity.
“We are now taking the fight to our nation’s Capitol,” Texas Democrats continued in their statement. “We are living on borrowed time in Texas.”
“We are here today because our backs were against the wall…we came today because we know that the Republican-led Legislature is not trying to make these elections fair and free…we’re not gonna take it.” – @NicoleCollier95 #txlege pic.twitter.com/MD4WYYbs4K
— Texas House Democrats (@TexasHDC) July 13, 2021
It’s not clear when the group of Democrats plan to return to the Lone Star State, but when they do, they will be arrested and brought back to Austin to complete their elected duties, according to Abbott.
Smiling House Dems fly off to DC on a private jet with a case of Miller Lite, breaking House quorum, abandoning their constituents, while the Senate still works. It’s my hope that Senate Dems report tomorrow to do what they were elected to do. We will vote on #SB1. #txlege pic.twitter.com/5Kcc4emNFg
— Dan Patrick (@DanPatrick) July 12, 2021
“Once they step back into the state of Texas, they will be arrested and brought to the Texas capital and we will be conducting business,” Abbott vowed in an interview Monday evening with Fox News’ Laura Ingraham.
Lawmakers who fled their legislative duties can be detained under a legal concept known as “a call of the House,” which authorizes law enforcement to track down errant members, detain them, and transport them back to the capital in Austin.
House Speaker Dade Phelan, a Republican from Beaumont, said in a statement on Monday after Democrats fled that the chamber “will use every available resource under the Texas Constitution and the unanimously-passed House rules to secure a quorum.” the Texas Tribune reported.
“It’s a sad commentary that we may have to utilize a procedural rule to try and force most of the Democrats to show up to do the job they were elected to do,” Rep. Dustin Burrows, a GOP lawmaker from Lubbock who is chairman of the powerful House Calendars Committee, told the outlet, adding he will vote to have Democrats arrested.
For his part, Abbott attempted to shame Texas Democrats for abandoning their duties.
“Isn’t that the most un-Texan thing you have ever heard? Texans running from a fight?” he told Ingraham. “They are quitters. It’s like during a football game or baseball game taking their equipment when they are way behind and just leaving the field. That is not the way that Texans do things.”
Abbott also hit Democrats for “hypocrisy.”
“They are leaving and abandoning their right to vote” — a knock on Democrats’ stated purpose of ensuring voting rights for state residents — he said.
The governor said that state Democrats are “using a filibuster to flee the state of Texas to plead with the president to do away with the filibuster in Washington, D.C.” He also pushed back on Democrat claims that the voter integrity legislation restricted anyone’s right or ability to vote in the state.
“What this Texas law does doesn’t hinder anybody’s abilities to vote,” he said, noting that Texas has 12 days of early voting. He also said that the legislation will “ensure that hours are expended on election day also — so their entire thesis is completely wrong.”
He also pointed out that it will continue to be easier to vote in Texas than in President Joe Biden’s home state of Delaware, which has strict voter ID requirements and is among the last in the country to allow early voting (which begins in 2022).
“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,” Abbott continued. “As they fly across the country on cushy private planes, they leave undone issues that can help their districts and our state.”
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