Schumer to meet with Texas Democrats who fled Austin
Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer said he will meet today with the Texas Democratic legislators who fled Austin to block Republican voting restrictions.
“They are brave. They are bold. They are courageous, and history will show them on the side of right,” Schumer said of the legislators.
“I will be meeting with a group of them today to plot out strategy and to praise them for what they are doing.”
Echoing other Democrats this morning, Schumer made a direct connection between these voting restrictions and the “big lie” of widespread fraud in the presidential election.
“Across the country, Republican-controlled state legislatures are conducting the most sweeping and coordinated attack on voting rights in generations, fueled by Donald Trump’s insidious big lie that the election was stolen,” Schumer said.
“And if the consequence is Americans of all parties feel that the elections are not fair, what is going to happen to this sacred and wonderful democracy?”
Congressman Lloyd Doggett argued that the bold steps taken by Texas legislators to block voting restrictions should be an inspiration to Democratic senators and Joe Biden.
“It is a time for bold action, the same kind of bold action and courage we need in the United States Senate and from this administration that these Texas colleagues of ours are demonstrating by their action,” Doggett said.
The Texas legislators who spoke at the Capitol Hill press conference also emphasized the need for Congress to act on voting rights, saying they cannot protect access to the ballot box by themselves.
“We can’t stay here indefinitely to run out the clock, to stop Republican anti-voter bills,” Texas state representative Rhetta Andrews Bowers said.
“That’s why we need Congress to act now and pass the For the People Act. Texas Democrats will use everything in our power to fight back, but we need Congress to act now.”
Two House Democrats from Texas, Marc Veasey and Lloyd Doggett, also spoke at the press conference with the state legislators who fled Austin yesterday.
Veasey demanded immediate action on filibuster reform to make it easier for Senate Democrats to pass voting rights bills.
The congressman echoed House majority whip Jim Clyburn’s demand for a carveout to the filibuster to allow the bills to advance with a simple majority in the Senate.
“Now, not later, not sometime in the future, now we need to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act,” Veasey said.
Doggett specifically called on Joe Biden to demand filibuster reform, just hours before the president is scheduled to deliver a speech on voting rights in Philadelphia this afternoon.
“We need the power of the presidency,” Doggett said. “We need the president and the vice-president and every Democrat in the Senate working together to preserve American democracy. There has seldom been more at stake.”
The lawmakers concluded the press conference by singing “We shall overcome,” the gospel song that became an anthem during the civil rights movement.
Texas Democrats come to Capitol Hill: ‘We are not going to buckle to the big lie’
Texas Democrats have now arrived on Capitol Hill to call for national legislation to strengthen voting rights.
The legislators who fled Austin yesterday to block Republican voting restrictions held a press conference this morning with members of the Texas congressional delegation.
Texas representative Rafael Anchía argued those restrictions would harm voters of all political parties, condemning the “big lie” of widespread voter fraud in the presidential election that he said has inspired these restrictions.
“We are not going to buckle to the ‘big lie’ in the state of Texas — the ‘big lie’ that has resulted in anti-democratic legislation throughout the United States. We said no when the ‘big lie’ came to the Capitol in Texas and darkened our door,” Anchía said.
Progressive lawmakers are calling on Joe Biden to demand filibuster reform in his speech on voting rights this afternoon.
Congressman Mondaire Jones, a progressive who represents parts of the Bronx, said that the president needs to recognize the serious dangers currently facing American democracy.
“Let me be clear: the time for words has long passed. Now is the time for action,” Jones said in a statement released this morning.
“If President Biden is serious about saving our ailing democracy, he will voice his support for, at the very least, reforming the filibuster to pass the For the People Act on a simple majority vote in the Senate.
“At this point, anything less is an insult to the voters, organizers, and activists who understand the dire stakes of this moment and are counting on him to act.”
Jones and his progressive allies are likely to be disappointed. Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, indicated yesterday that Biden considers filibuster reform to be a matter for senators to decide. She also noted that Senate Democrats do not currently have the votes to amend the filibuster.
Hugo Lowell reports on Democrats’ demands to amend the filibuster to ease the passage of voting rights bills:
Top Democrats in the House are spearheading a new effort to convince the Senate to carve out a historic exception to the filibuster that would allow them to push through their marquee voting rights and election reform legislation over unanimous Republican opposition.
The sweeping measure to expand voting rights known as S1 fell victim to a Republican filibuster last month after the Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, and his leadership team unified the conference to sink the bill in a party-line vote.
Now, furious at Republicans for weaponizing the filibuster against Joe Biden’s legislative agenda, the House majority whip, James Clyburn, is pushing Senate Democrats to end its use for constitutional measures, according to sources familiar with the matter.
The rare and forceful effort from a member of the House leadership to pressure changes in the Senate underscores the alarm among Democrats that the filibuster may be an insurmountable obstacle as they race to overturn a wave of Republican ballot restrictions.
McConnell, the top Republican in the Senate, told the Guardian on Monday he was deeply unimpressed by Clyburn’s maneuvers. “If it’s not broken, it doesn’t need fixing,” McConnell said of the filibuster, adding he would “absolutely” oppose any changes.
The Guardian’s Sam Levine has more details on the voting restrictions that Texas Republicans are trying to enact:
Texas Republicans are intent on a radical overhaul of voting laws in the state in ways that many Democrats and civil rights experts say will directly affect voters of color in a state that is becoming more Democratic. The laws include outlawing 24-hour polling places, banning ballot drop boxes and empowering partisan poll watchers.
Democrats are determined to stop them. Earlier this summer, Democrats scuppered the reforms by walking out of the state house of representatives and denying the session a quorum.
But now the Republican governor, Greg Abbott, has convened a special legislative session to pass the reforms. This second revolt also denies a quorum but, with Democrats literally fleeing the state, also significantly ups the ante.
It’s not really clear how the face-off will end. The Texas constitution requires two-thirds of a legislative body to be present to conduct business. If there’s no quorum, the constitution authorizes the legislature to “compel” the attendance of missing members.
The rules of the Texas house of representatives make it clear that those who flee the state could be arrested and brought back to Texas.
The special session of the legislature can only last up to 30 days. But even if Democrats were able to remain out of the state for that long, the governor could continue to call special sessions until lawmakers return.
Even though Democrats cannot stop the Republican legislation, bringing the legislature to a halt might give them some kind of leverage in negotiating over the bills.
Texas governor vows to arrest Democratic legislators who fled Austin
Joe Biden’s speech on voting rights also comes one day after Democratic legislators in Texas fled the state to break quorum for a special session and thus block Republican voting restrictions.
Texas Republicans failed to advance their voting bill during the regular session because Democrats staged a walkout at the 11th hour, running out the clock until the session ended.
The Republican governor, Greg Abbott, then called a special legislative session to allow lawmakers to take up the voting restrictions and an anti-trans bill that also failed to pass during the regular session.
To prevent the special session from moving forward, 50 Democratic legislators boarded private planes headed to Washington, DC, denying legislative leaders the quorum that they needed to take up legislation.
Abbott is now threatening to arrest the Democratic legislators once they return to Texas, saying, “As soon as they come back in the state of Texas, they will be arrested, they will be cabined inside the Texas capitol until they get their job done.”
According to reports, the legislators plan to stay out of the state for the next month to allow the 30-day session to expire.
Biden to address voting rights as Republicans enact restrictions across US
Greetings from Washington, live blog readers.
This afternoon, Joe Biden will deliver a speech on strengthening voting rights at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The speech comes as Republican legislators across the country have attempted to enact hundreds of voting restrictions, with at least 28 already being signed into law.
Previewing the speech yesterday, Jen Psaki said the president will condemn such voting restrictions as “authoritarian,” “anti-American” and “the worst challenge to our democracy since the Civil War”.
“He’ll lay out the moral case for why denying the right to vote is a form of suppression and a form of silencing,” the White House press secretary said.
“He will redouble his commitment to using every tool at his disposal to continue to fight to protect the fundamental right of Americans to vote against the onslaught of voter suppression laws, based on a dangerous and discredited conspiracy theory that culminated in an assault on our Capitol.”
However, unless Senate Democrats can amend or eliminate the filibuster, they almost certainly cannot pass national voting rights legislation to protect access to the ballot box.
And Psaki made clear yesterday that Biden considers filibuster reform to be a matter for the Senate. So while Biden may have many tough words this afternoon on strengthening voting rights, it seems like actual action will continue to elude him.
The blog will have more details on the speech coming up, so stay tuned.