Texas Democratic lawmakers skipped out on Governor Greg Abbott’s special legislative session Saturday (Aug. 7) breaking quorum for the third time this year. More than 50 Texas Democrats initially fled the state last month in an effort to make sure their Republican counterparts could not pass one of the most contentious voting bills in the country, SB 1. Since then, some of those Democratic legislators have held meetings with the vice president in D.C., marched for voting rights and increased the pressure on the Senate to pass the For The People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.
House Speaker Dade Phelan, who is a Republican, adjourned the chamber inside the Texas State Capitol until Monday (Aug. 9), The Dallas News reports. But it’s unlikely enough Democrats will return for the House to vote on the bill.
In a press release issued by the Texas Dems, the legislators called Governor Abbott’s repeated attempts to mandate their return “a threat to democracy.” “It signals his commitment to force policy that undermines the constitutional rights of our citizens,” the press release states. “If these laws are passed, they would deny Black and Brown Texans, elderly people, disabled, and young people a fair election process and significantly hinder their ability to vote in future elections.”
Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa echoed those sentiments in an additional statement. “Texas Democrats will continue to stand up and fight back with everything we’ve got against Abbott. We will speak out to protect the voting rights of all Americans and legislators will not be forced to abandon their oath to uphold the Constitutional rights of our Texas citizens,” the statement reads. “Our legislators have successfully fended off Abbott’s attacks and threats twice, and have put our struggle to protect voting rights in the national spotlight. We continue to call on Congress to put meaningful voting rights protections into federal law — because Republican politicians are not slowing down in their attacks. Here in Texas, we will be working every single day from now until November 2022 to defeat Greg Abbott and get Texans the strong Democratic leadership they deserve.”
Governor Abbott’s latest special session is set to run through Sept. 6. In order to pass the bill, or any bills for that matter, the House needs at least 100 members present to achieve a quorum. Only 81 representatives showed up on Saturday.
Republicans appear to be hopeful their colleagues will come back soon. In a separate statement, Speaker Phelan said that he expects the House to vote on the bill next week and to “promptly get to work.”
Phelan was named as a defendant in a lawsuit 22 Texas Democrats filed on Friday (Aug. 6). The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, also names Abbott and state Rep. James White as defendants. The suit, according to The Dallas News, alleges GOP members have attempted to “deny, coerce, threaten, intimidate and prevent” members and their constituents from exercising their rights to “vote in all elections.” They’re seeking $5 in actual damages and $10 in punitive damages.