Texas Democrats announced Tuesday that they would remain in Washington, DC, to lobby for federal voting reforms — during a news conference in which they sang an off-key rendition of the civil rights hymn “We Shall Overcome.”
The Democrats held a news conference near the Capitol Tuesday in defiance of Gov. Greg Abbott’s threat to have them arrested after fleeing a special session in the state legislature.
Nearly 60 Democrats in the state House of Representatives jetted to DC on Monday on two chartered flights to deprive the chamber of a quorum and scuttle a vote on a series of election reforms that Republicans say will protect against election fraud.
While in the nation’s capital, they said they would meet with congressional Democrats to support the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.
State Rep. Rafael Anchia said Democrats are willing to work on bipartisan proposals but that they were left out of discussions and their amendments to the election legislation were rejected out of hand.
“In fact, we’re sad for democracy in the state of Texas. And we took a solemn oath to protect the Constitution of the United States and to protect the Constitution of the State of Texas, and that is why we stand united before you here today in preserving, not only the democracy in Texas but the democracy of the United States,” he said at a news conference.
Rep. Marc Veasey (D-Texas) cautioned that time was running out on passing federal election protections because Republican-led states have already or are in the process of passing voting reform bills.
“I just want Greg Abbott and Republican leaders in Texas, Florida, Georgia, and anywhere else to know that we are not going to stop. We are always going to push back against these sort of bigoted, racist, Jim Crow 2.0-style voting laws whenever you decide to bring them up,” Veasey said.
Abbott and Republicans decried the Democrats’ stunt, saying they were running away from the Lone Star State by taking a chartered vacation to DC.
Besides threatening to arrest them when they return to Austin in August, Abbott said he would just call for another special legislative session to take up the bills.
“Isn’t this the most un-Texan thing you’ve ever heard — Texans running from a fight? They’re quitters,” Abbott, a Republican, said on Fox News’ “The Ingraham Angle.”
Texas Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, among the Democrats who fled to DC, said he and the other Democrats will not be intimidated by Abbott’s threats.
He also defended taking the private flights to DC, saying it isn’t a “government junket” at taxpayer expense because lawmakers used “private” funds, such as campaign money, to pay for the trip.
“Number one, when you break a quorum, you want to be successful. So I think everybody wants to see, 51, 52, 55 Democrats on the same plane, that’s reassuring. Number two, to get a flight out of town, at a time certain with getting everybody to come in from across the state, you need to fly privately,” he said on CNN.
“And as you can see from the picture, we’re talking about using the same kind of plane that the public uses every day. There’s no fancy couches or anything like that. This was just a regular plane that moved us from one state to another,” he added.
State Rep. Jasmine Crockett said the threat of arrest doesn’t bother her.
”I’ve not committed a crime. So I can’t get arrested. The most that can happen is I can be detained,” Crockett said on CNN.
“And it’s not the governor who gets to make that decision. It’s the speaker of the House. The speaker of the House that was elected by both Democrats and Republicans,” she continued.
Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick blasted the Democrats for cutting and running instead of standing up for their constituents.
“Give me a break, you don’t run from a fight. They have a constitutional obligation when they were elected for office to show up, and instead that they take their cases of beer or wine or whiskey to get on a plane, they look like they’re you know going on vacation they go to Washington DC,” he said on Fox News.
“I’m sick of these people who are nothing more than anarchists,” Patrick said.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he plans to meet with the Democratic lawmakers Tuesday “to plot out strategy and to praise them for what they are doing.”
In Texas, the House did try to convene but only four Democrats were in attendance, too few for a quorum.
But the chamber did vote 76 to 4 to direct the Sergeant-at-Arms to send for all absentee members by “warrant of arrest if necessary.”
State Rep. Eddie Morales, one of the remaining Democrats, said he doesn’t believe law enforcement officials will venture beyond Texas.
Republicans say the voting reforms — ending 24-hour polling places, banning ballot drop boxes, and empowering partisan poll watchers — are designed to ensure the integrity of the vote by preventing voter fraud.
Democrats said the intent of the legislation is to hinder people’s ability to vote.
With Post wires