In a rebellion against GOP plans to pass sweeping changes to voting and elections, Democrats in the Texas House left the state Monday to derail a special session of the Legislature that Gov. Greg Abbott had called to consider the voting measure and other bills.
The Democrats chartered two flights to Washington, and the House Democratic Caucus picked up the tab of about $100,000, sources said.
“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.
In addition to drawing national attention to the voting fight, the Democrats said they hoped to pressure Congress to pass federal legislation “to protect Texans – and all Americans – from the Trump Republicans’ nationwide war on democracy.”
“We are living on borrowed time in Texas,” said the statement from Democratic Reps. Chris Turner, Rafael Anchía, Nicole Collier, Garnet Coleman and Senfronia Thompson.
The Democrats’ departure, which broke a needed legislative quorum, came days after Abbott convened the special session. They again denied the GOP majority a quorum to pass bills, barely a month after their walkout in the state House of Representatives thwarted the first push for sweeping voting restrictions in Texas – including outlawing 24-hour polling places, banning ballot drop boxes and empowering partisan poll watchers.
It’s the first time since 2003 that Texas Democrats, shut out of power in the state Capitol for decades, have crossed state lines to break quorum.
Legislators leave Texas to avoid arrest
Under House rules, absent legislators could be arrested by the sergeant-at-arms “or an officer appointed by the sergeant-at-arms” and returned to the House floor, but once quorum-busting representatives are out of state, Texas law enforcement lacks jurisdiction.
An order to arrest House members must be voted on by a majority of lawmakers present after the lack of a quorum is established.