SAN ANTONIO (KTSA News) — Texas Democrats held a press conference Tuesday morning on the House Triangle to discuss their decision to leave the state to break quorum for the first time since 2003.
The news broke yesterday that Texas Democrats would be leaving the state in an effort to block a vote on voting and elections bills and to call on Congress to enact federal voting rights protections.
The contentious bills, Senate Bill 1 and House Bill 3, would eliminate drive-thru and 24-hour early voting seen in Harris County in 2020, add ID requirements for voting by mail, monthly citizen checks, enhancing partisan poll watcher protections, and a ban on the distribution of mail-in ballot applications in addition to making it a state jail felony to prohibit local election officials from sending out unsolicited applications.
“We’re not doing this for Democrats. We’re not doing this for Republicans. We’re doing this for North and South Texans, Eastern and West Texans,” Texas Rep. Rafael Anchía said. “And, we are not going to buckle to the big lie in the state of Texas.”
Two-third of Texas House and Senate members need to be present in order to hold a quorum which would allow for a vote.
51 of the state’s House Democrats would have had to leave Texas in order to break quorum and the Texas Tribune reported that at least 51 state lawmakers boarded a plane leaving Austin-Bergstrom International Airport for Washington D.C. Monday afternoon.
“The Texas House will use every available resource under the Texas Constitution and the unanimously-passed House Rules to secure a quorum to meaningfully debate and consider election integrity, bail reform, benefits for retired teachers, Child Protective Services reform, Article X funding, and the other important measures Gov. Abbott placed on the special session agenda,” Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan said in a statement Monday. “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.”
Texas Democrats and U.S. Congressmen from Texas urged federal lawmakers to enact voting rights protections.
“It’s a shame that today in 2021 we’re revisiting the past. That’s exactly what we’re doing. Now — not later, not sometime in the future — we need to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and HR 1,” U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey said. “Our citizens can’t wait any longer.”
The John Lewis Voting Rights Act is a bill that amends the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in various ways including voting on Indian lands, discrimination in voting, voting rights violations, transparency regarding voting eligibility requirements, bilingual election requirements and a variety of other technical amendments.
HR 1 includes an expansion of voter registration and voting access, establish independent redistricting commissions to carry out congressional redistricting, require the President, Vice President and other certain candidates to disclose 10 years worth of tax returns, sets forth provisions related to election security and campaign finance laws.
“We need the President and Vice President and every Democrat in Congress working together,” U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett said. “We need that Lyndon B. Johnson moment.”
Texas Governor Greg Abbott said Monday night that Texas Democrats will be arrested and “cabined inside the Texas Capitol until they get their job done” as soon as they return to the state.
“In addition to [having them arrested], however, I can and I will continue to call special session after special session after special session all the way until [the] election next year,” Abbott said. “So if these people wanna be hanging wherever they’re hanging out on this taxpayer-paid junket, they’re going to have to be prepared to do it for well over a year.”
Sen. Ted Cruz said Texas Democrats are pulling a political stunt and says the end result will be that Texas lawmakers will inevitably pass the bills.
“This stunt is going to fail, they’re going to come back, there is going to a be a quorum and I believe the legislature is going to do its job and protect the integrity of elections,” Cruz said.