- Dozens of Democratic state lawmakers left Texas in July to prevent restrictive voting legislation.
- One month later, little to no progress has been made.
- It’s unclear what their next move is, but several have no plans to return anytime soon.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Texas House Democrats fled to Washington, DC, in mid-July with two goals in mind: to convince Congress to pass new voting laws and to ensure the state house wouldn’t have a quorum to pass restrictive voting legislation.
One month later and dozens of state lawmakers are still in Washington, DC, with little to show for it.
The US Senate came close to voting on a voting access bill, but US Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas shut it down. The Senate is now in August recess, meaning there won’t be another Senate vote until at least September.
Texas Democrats are at an impasse
Meanwhile, Texas state GOP senators stayed behind, maintained a quorum, and added the voting restrictions bill to their agenda. With a clear Republican majority, there was nothing for state Democrats to do other than attempt to filibuster the bill.
Democratic state Sen. Carol Alvarado stood for 15 hours without food or drink on Wednesday and Thursday as she attempted to stop the voting bill from passing through the Senate, but to no avail. Right after she stepped away from her desk and ended her filibuster, the Texas senate advanced the bill in an 18-11 vote along party lines.
Texas house leaders issued a “Call of the House” motion on Monday compelling all members to be present in the chamber and giving permission to authorities to detain missing lawmakers and bring them to the state capitol.
A “Call of the House” can also command the sergeant-at-arms to lock the chamber and prevent members from leaving. Members of law enforcement are now searching the homes of missing Democrats in an effort to return them, The Dallas Morning News reported on Friday.
With no possible avenue of success until at least September in the US Senate, Texas state Democrats can either go home and let the bill pass or make little progress outside of the state as the party suffers PR blow after PR blow from unforced errors.
Video: Texas House Speaker orders arrest of absent Democrats (Reuters)
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Avoidable missteps and Republican attacks have led Democrats to slowly lose the court of public opinion
Democratic groups and voting advocacy organizations from around the nation cheered on Texas Democrats when they broke quorum at the end of the legislative session in May to prevent restrictive voting laws and anti-transgender legislation from passing.
Less than two weeks later, the Democratic caucus posted photos of its members en route to DC to court Congressional Democrats for help.
Their mistake? An easily identifiable box of beers in the center of the frame quickly became fodder for Republican attack ads.
-Dan Patrick (@DanPatrick) July 12, 2021
Republican leaders are also using items from Gov. Greg Abbott’s legislative agenda to show what the missing Democrats could be voting for if they returned. State Rep. Briscoe Cain, for example, used his office door as a billboard to show that necessary foster care funding is being withheld as Democrats abstain from Austin.
-𝐁𝐫𝐢𝐬𝐜𝐨𝐞 𝐂𝐚𝐢𝐧 (@BriscoeCain) July 13, 2021
Additionally, two Democratic representatives absconded their DC cohort in early August to go on a planned vacation to Portugal. Once again, Republican leaders pounced on the members’ oversights and pointed to resources Democrats could pass into law if they were to return.
-Brad Buckley (@BradBuckleyDVM) August 4, 2021
It’s unclear what the plans are now for Texas Democrats, but it appears they plan on staying the course. Insider reached out to Reps. Gene Wu and Jarvis Johnson but didn’t hear back in time for publication.
Rep. Vikki Goodwin told the Dallas Morning News that she wouldn’t return to Texas until she “can safely” without fear of detainment, but Wu took a more forceful approach when the Houston Chronicle asked if he’d return anytime soon:
“Hell no,” Wu said.
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