Texas Governor Greg Abbott had threatened to block paychecks to Democrats in the state who fled the state to block votes on new electoral laws. Enough Democrats have returned for Republicans to get back to the law. Eric Gay / AP Hide caption
Eric Gay / AP
Eric Gay / AP
AUSTIN, Texas – A stalemate in Texas over new election restrictions that blocked the Capitol for 38 consecutive days ended Thursday when some Democrats who fled to Washington, DC abandoned their opposition and paved the way for Republicans to do one To resume revision of elections.
It turned into one of the few – and longest – college breaks in modern Texan history, abruptly and in disarray.
Instead of a unified and solemn return of the Democrats, some members hit their counterparts for criticizing a break in the ranks. Many of the proposed changes to the Texas vote, which the Democrats have been railing against for months, remain in a bill already passed by the state Senate, and Republican Governor Greg Abbott could now sign the bill in a few weeks, if not sooner .
Only three new Democrats showed up Thursday, and the vast majority of the 50+ Democrats who fled to the country’s capital in July continue to stay away from the Texas Capitol. Still, Republican House spokesman Dade Phelan said there was enough to reach a quorum that would normally be 100 legislators present in the House. Growing impatience among Republicans had escalated threats that missing lawmakers could be arrested, but officials never seemed to do more than leave arrest warrants on Democratic homes.
“It was a very long summer. Been through a lot. I appreciate that you are all here, ”Phelan said. “It’s time to get back to business for the Texas people.”
Not all Democrats joined the opposition, and the newest ones to return to Texas House defended their decision, saying they had successfully pushed Congress on proxy legislation while addressing the growing urgency of the rising COVID-19 case numbers in Texas referenced. One of them, Houston Democrat Garnet Coleman, did not travel to Washington because he was recovering from a leg amputation due to infection.
“One of the things in life is that we have to know our responsibilities and work to make something go in the direction we want,” said Coleman from a wheelchair as he said the prayer on the floor of the house.
But other absent Democrats did not hide their frustration either.
“This is how the Texas Democrats lose elections,” tweeted MP Michelle Beckley.
Abbott now has a way to divert attention back to the Capitol and away from the criticism and defiance of Texas’s largest cities and school districts about its handling of worsening COVID-19 numbers. Up for re-election in 2022, Abbott had also weighed down the agenda for that final 30-day special session – which is almost halfway over – with other hot conservative topics like border security and teaching race in public schools.
Abbott tested positive for COVID-19 this week despite his office saying the 63-year-old governor had no symptoms.
It leaves the Democrats in the same position as when the lockdown began: they are unable to permanently prevent the GOP-controlled legislature from setting new limits and rules for voting by more than 16 million registered voters. And the federal suffrage protection that the Texas Democrats advocated in Washington still has great chances of circumventing the GOP’s opposition in Congress.
For months, Texas Republicans have been trying to pass measures banning 24-hour polling stations, banning drive-through voting, and giving partisan election observers more access. A version of the bill just hours from Abbott’s desk in May would also have banned early voting on Sunday mornings – when many black churchgoers go to the polls – and made it easier for a judge to overturn an election. The Democrats’ first strike finally sank those two provisions, but the Republicans left other controversial measures intact.
Abbott vetoed paychecks of about 2,100 Legislature employees after the Democrats first resigned in an attempt to pressure Democrats to return to restore that funding.
The full house quickly adjourned Thursday, but Republicans worked quickly to schedule an electoral law hearing for Saturday.
“People want to get to work. They’re relieved that after all this time we’ve been held hostage in Austin, we can finally get down to business,” said Rep. Jim Murphy, chairman of the House Republican Committee.
Months of protests had put the Texas Democrats at the center of a new national election campaign. Republicans in the US have rushed to issue new election restrictions in response to former President Donald Trump’s false claims that the 2020 elections were stolen.
Republicans are now on their way to passing new electoral laws in Texas before the current special session ends on September 5th.