Dozens of state Democratic lawmakers fled Texas on Monday to break quorum and prevent the GOP-controlled State Legislature from passing election reforms.
At least 51 of 67 House lawmakers boarded chartered flights to Washington, D.C., to protest in support of the For The People Act, which would shift much authority over election processes from the states to the federal government. The walkout comes after Republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced a special session of Congress to focus on legislative priorities such as election reforms that were blocked when Democrats broke quorum earlier this year.
“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, according to the Texas Tribune.
The Democrats had considered fleeing to West Virginia and Arizona to put pressure on Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Joe Manchin (D-WV), who have expressed displeasure with the For The People Act. The Texas lawmakers eventually decided against that move, however, out of fear that each states’ GOP governor would help extradite them back to Texas.
Abbott released a statement Monday hammering the Democratic lawmakers from fleeing the legislature.
“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. As they fly across the country on cushy private planes, they leave undone issues that can help their districts and our state,” Abbott said. “The Democrats must put aside partisan political games and get back to the job they were elected to do. Their constituents must not be denied these important resources simply because their elected representative refused to show up to work.”
Abbott announced the new special session, which can last no longer than 30 days, last week with a list of his priorities to accomplish.
“The 87th Legislative Session was a monumental success for the people of Texas, but we have unfinished business to ensure that Texas remains the most exceptional state in America,” Abbott said in a statement. “Two of my emergency items, along with other important legislation, did not make it to my desk during the regular session, and we have a responsibility to finish the job on behalf of all Texans. These Special Session priority items put the people of Texas first and will keep the Lone Star State on a path to prosperity. I look forward to working with my partners in the Legislature to pass this legislation as we build a brighter future for all who call Texas home.”
Last month, Abbott vetoed funding for the Texas State Legislature over the Democrats earlier walkout. As The Daily Wire reported:
Democrats in the Texas House walked off the floor of the House chamber last month, breaking quorum and stopping Republicans from passing election reforms, as well as a bail reform legislation that Abbott in particular wanted, according to The Texas Tribune. After the walk-out, Abbott vowed to defund the legislative branch for “abandon[ing] their responsibilities.”
“Texans don’t run from a legislative fight, and they don’t walk away from unfinished business,” Abbott said in a statement Friday. “Funding should not be provided for those who quit their job early, leaving their state with unfinished business and exposing taxpayers to higher costs for an additional legislative session. I therefore object to and disapprove of these appropriations.”
Abbott vetoed Article 10 of the state budget approved by the legislature Friday. Article 10 not only funds lawmakers’ salaries, but also the salaries of staff and maintenance workers, and it funds legislative agencies such as the Legislative Reference Library.
Abbott’s veto of Article 10 is unprecedented, according to the Legislative Reference Library. Similarly, the Democrats’ walk-out in May to stop legislation that was otherwise primed to pass is a move that has rarely been done in Texas politics.