- Over 50 Texas House Democrats arrived Monday night in Washington and will remain until Aug. 7.
- The lawmakers arrived on chartered jets paid for by the House Democratic Caucus.
- Texas lawmakers plan to push Congress on the For the People Act and John Lewis Voting Rights Act.
- Furious Texas Republicans call the stunt a “taxpayer-funded vacation.”
DULLES, Virginia — More than 50 Texas House Democrats arrived at the Dulles International Airport on Monday evening, leaving the state in a gambit to deny Republicans a quorum and thus prevent a vote Democrats say curbs voting rights.
Their only weapon, they say in the GOP-controlled Legislature, is to remove themselves and force gridlock.
It is the second time this summer that Texas Democrats have resorted to this tactic — avoiding the House chamber — but this time they fled the state, not just the state Capitol building, arriving in Washington in style by two private jets.
An irate Republican Gov. Greg Abbott had called the special session that is now underway on a number of issues to force Democrats to vote.
The hurried nature of the way things had come together as Texas Democrats reverted to their exit strategy was clear at the Washington press conference, with a gathering at nightfall scheduled near the picturesque Dulles International Airport terminal hastily pulled away to the much less scenic cellphone waiting area parking lot. The move was made at the insistence of airport officials, though no reason was given.
“We left Texas, not because we want to,” state Rep. Chris Turner, D-Arlington and chair of the House Democratic Caucus, told reporters in the Dulles parking lot. “It breaks our heart to do it. We are in a fight to save our democracy.”
Turner confirmed an earlier report made to the American-Statesman that the $100,000 cost of the two flights was being paid for by the Caucus.
Another press conference is scheduled at the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday morning.
Texas Democrats to push Congress on voting rights bills
Turner said the Texas House Democrats would stay in Washington until Aug. 7, the end of the special session, and would work on getting the U.S. Senate to approve two voting protection bills. He told the Austin American-Statesman the state lawmakers were still formulating their plans to visit U.S. senators to make the case for voting rights, which they said the Texas GOP was determined to restrict.
“Texas is the hardest state to vote in already,” Turner said. As for the determination on display by the dozens of state Democratic lawmakers, he said, “Our democracy is at stake.”
Texas lawmakers see the way out for them is to have the Congress pass voting rights law that would override state efforts to eliminate such conveniences as drive-through voting or same day registration.
“We need Congress to act now to pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act to protect Texans — and all Americans — from the Trump Republicans’ nationwide war on democracy,” Turner said.
Texas Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, known as Ms. T, said, “I left because I am tired of sitting like a hostage while Republicans take away the rights of our citizens to vote.”
State Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, said, “There is nothing special about this session. This is a suppression session.”
Texas Republicans push back
But Republicans kept up a chorus of complaints back in Texas.
“This taxpayer-funded vacation was taken at the expense of Texans who elected us to lead,” said state Rep. Jacey Jetton, R-Sugar Land. “Without even attempting to negotiate or debate the issues, the House Democrats took a private jet to D.C. in order to avoid hard conversations, all while continuing to receive a paycheck from the tax dollars of hard-working Texans.”
Texas House members will be able to press their case for the Senate to pass voting rights measures during their impromptu lobbying visit — the U.S. House has already passed them.
U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, welcomed his fellow Democrats. “Greg Abbott and his Republican cohorts have messed with Texan voters one too many times. Our Texas Democrats are breaking quorum rather than being accomplices to breaking democracy. They rightly recognize that our democracy is only as strong as our voting rights.”
Source: USA Today – Breaking News