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Texas Democrats

People opposed to the Texas Republican-led effort to pass new voting restrictions are gathered at the State Capitol in Austin on July 10, 2021 as they wait to testify before state lawmakers who began committee hearings on election integrity bills. (Photo: Tamir Kalifa/Getty Images)

Calls for a Bolder Congress Follow Texas Dems' Exodus to Thwart GOP Anti-Voter Bills

"Democrats in the U.S. Senate could learn a lot from these Texas Democrats—sometimes you have to pull out all the stops to protect democracy."

Brett Wilkins

As Texas state Democratic lawmakers on Monday undertook a daring effort to deny their Republican colleagues the quorum needed to ram through a sweeping voter suppression package, progressive advocates and observers implored congressional Democrats to act boldly to protect U.S. democracy from the GOP onslaught.

According to the Texas Tribune:

Upping the ante in both the legislative fight at home and the national debate over voting rights, most House Democrats boarded two planes out of Austin headed for the U.S. capital without a set return date. At least 51 of the 67 Democratic representatives—the number needed to break quorum—were in the process of leaving Monday afternoon, most arriving at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport Monday to board chartered flights that departed around 3:10 pm.

As the Tribune notes, "ultimately, Democrats lack the votes to keep the Republican-controlled Legislature from passing new voting restrictions, along with the other conservative priorities on Gov. Greg Abbott's 11-item agenda for the special session," which is set to reconvene Tuesday.

"We need Congress to act now to pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act to protect Texans—and all Americans—from the Trump Republicans' nationwide war on democracy."
—Texas state House Democrats

A pair of GOP bills supported by the Republican governor would ban drive-thru and 24-hour voting, restrict mail-in voting, increase penalties for voting mistakes, and further empower partisan poll watchers. This, in a state where high-profile arrests and imprisonment of Black people for what they say were honest voting mistakes were already drawing condemnation from across the nation. 

"Today, Texas House Democrats stand united in our decision to break quorum and refuse to let the Republican-led Legislature force through dangerous legislation that would trample on Texans' freedom to vote," a statement from state House Democratic leaders said.

"We are now taking the fight to our nation's Capitol," it continued. "We are living on borrowed time in Texas. We need Congress to act now to pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act to protect Texans—and all Americans—from the Trump Republicans' nationwide war on democracy."

U.S. Senate Republicans blocked debate on the For the People Act, a popular pro-democracy bill, last month—bolstering demands that Democrats end the filibuster.

Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa said in a statement that:

Today, by breaking quorum to block Abbott's attacks on voters, Texas Democrats are making history. After Abbott dragged lawmakers back to the [state] Capitol for his suppression session, Democrats are fighting back with everything we've got. We will not stand by and watch Republicans slash our right to vote, silence the voices of Texans of color, and destroy our democracy—all to preserve their own power.

Our lawmakers have refused to be complicit in Republicans' destructive attacks—and they're doing what Texans need them to do: Hold the line so that not one more anti-voter law can be passed in Texas. There's no democracy without the right to vote. Once again, Democrats are standing strong and united to defend the right of every eligible Texas voter to make their voice heard.

"Republicans are attacking our voting rights for one reason: They know their days in power are numbered, so they're trying to cling to power the only way they can—by stopping us from voting," asserted Hinojosa. "Texas Democrats have stood strong in the face of these attacks all year, and we will not let up. We will keep holding the line for our democracy and the voice of every single Texan."

State Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer (D-116), who organized the effort to leave Texas, told the New York Times that "we have to decide if we are going to stand for democracy. We want the nation to join us and we want the U.S. Senate to hear us and act."

Numerous left-leaning activists and observers echoed Martinez Fischer's call to action directed at Democrats in the U.S. Congress.

"Voters cannot afford to wait any longer for Congress to take action," Common Cause Texas executive director Anthony Gutierrez said in a statement. "If we believe in free and fair elections, then we have to fight for them. Texas Democrats have led by example, doing whatever it takes to preserve our democracy. Now it's time for Congress to do the same."

Morris Pearl, former managing director at the asset management firm BlackRock, Inc., and chair of the Patriotic Millionaires, said in a statement that "this evening, Texas Democrats are setting a bold example for lawmakers in the dozens of other states where voting rights are under attack and in the U.S. Capitol, where legislation to protect voting rights has yet again stalled."

"In Austin and all across the country, our democracy is being systematically and strategically undermined, and it's time for lawmakers to treat this assault on our democracy as the emergency it is," Pearl added. "Democrats in the U.S. Senate could learn a lot from these Texas Democrats—sometimes you have to pull out all the stops to protect democracy."

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