By Charlie McCarthy
Texas House Democrat lawmakers are mulling their next move as a second special legislative session is set to begin Saturday, The Texas Tribune reported.
More than 50 Texas Democrats fled to Washington, D.C., and remained there for more than three weeks as a way to avoid passing a new elections integrity bill.
State Rep. Chris Turner, who leads Democrat’s House caucus, indicated Thursday evening there was no immediate plan for the group of deserting lawmakers. The first special session ended Friday.
“We’re discussing what’s next,” Turner told the Tribune. “What is certain is that our caucus is unified in continuing to fight against these anti-voter bills and all these other unnecessary red meat issues that are simply designed to help [Gov. Greg Abbott] in his next primary election.”
The Democrats left Texas to deprive the state House of a quorum, which is required to conduct official business.
Admitting they don’t have the votes to prevent bill passage, the Democrats fled to Washington last month hoping to persuade lawmakers to pass federal voting legislation.
“When we left nearly four weeks ago we set out a clear goal, which was to kill the bill this session and use the time productively here in Washington to urge passage of federal voting rights legislation, and tomorrow we’ll be able to report success on both fronts,” Turner told the Tribune.
Abbott on Thursday ordered another special legislative session to again try passing a Republican-led voting bill. This time, he’s asking lawmakers to take up changing the rules of what constitutes a quorum.
Democrats, while convening in their Washington hotel conference area, reviewed the governor’s 17-item agenda for the second special session.
The Tribune reported the House Democrats have several options:
- Return to the Capitol in Austin.
- Return to Texas but remain in their respective districts and risk arrest under House rules that allow members to be compelled to attend.
- Extend their stay in Washington.
- Travel to another state and continue to evade Texas law enforcement’s jurisdiction.
Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan’s office on Thursday appealed to Democrats who didn’t bolt to Washington.
“Special session will begin anew on Saturday and the bipartisan group of members who stayed in Texas look forward to being joined by their House colleagues to address the items on the call, including relief for retired teachers, improving the foster care system, and addressing election integrity,” Phelan spokesman Enrique Marquez told the Tribune.
Republicans want to pass elections integrity legislation to improve the voting process and make it more secure. Democrats and voting rights advocates have claimed that such laws discriminate against minorities and lower-class people by making it more difficult to cast ballots.