Texas Republicans are spinning their Democratic colleagues’ walkout as an abdication of duty, with the lieutenant governor in particular vowing that there will be a vote on the voter restrictions Democrats are trying to block.
“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,” Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) tweeted. “It’s my hope that Senate Dems report tomorrow to do what they were elected to do. We will vote on SB 1.”
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
House Speaker Dade Phelan (R) also emphasized the Democrats’ means of transportation.
“These actions put at risk state funding that will deny thousands of hardworking staff members and their families a paycheck, health benefits, and retirement investment so that legislators who broke quorum can flee to Washington D.C. in private jets,” he said in a statement, adding that the Texas House will use “every available resource” to secure a quorum.
The Texas Democrats are trying a strategy similar to one they successfully used in May to temporarily kill the precursor to the voter restrictions introduced last week. They slowly trickled out of the House as the clock wound down on the regular session, ultimately depriving the chamber of the two-thirds quorum needed to vote. Then, they congregated at a nearby church; this time, they’re en route to Washington D.C. to impress upon U.S. congressional Democrats the importance of passing federal voting safeguards.
Beto O’Rourke, former presidential candidate-turned-voting rights advocate, said that the strategy had raked in $90,000 in just a few hours from donors looking to support the Democrats’ efforts.
The sweeping voting bills, SB 1 and HB 3, would, among many other things, ban 24-hour and drive-through voting, and impose new ID requirements on mail-in voting. They would also prevent election officials from proactively sending out vote by mail applications, and up the penalties on those officials who violate regulations.
The lawmakers may have to avoid Texas for weeks to run out the special session, called by Gov. Greg Abbott (R) last week to pass the voting restrictions and other bills. They could also risk arrest in the process for running afoul of the state’s constitution, which requires a two-thirds quorum of legislators to be present while the legislature is in session.
The move earned plaudits from Vice President Kamala Harris, who cheered the lawmakers’ “extraordinary courage.”
One member of the Texas Democrats’ congregation, quoting the late Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), called the walkout “good trouble.”
Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), speaking to a CNN reporter, instead painted the gambit as cowardice.
“It’s not very Texan,” he said. “You stay and you fight — you don’t run away.”