Politics Texas Democrats launch a war they probably cannot win

15:38  13 july  2021
15:38  13 july  2021 Source:   thehill.com

Texas Dems flee state to prevent Republicans from passing voting laws

  Texas Dems flee state to prevent Republicans from passing voting laws Texas Democrats fled their state on private jets Monday in order to prevent a series of new, restrictive voting laws from making their way through the state legislature. '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,' the Texas state house Democratic caucus said in a statement. At least 58 Democratic lawmakers left Austin to fly to Washington D.C.

On Monday, more than 50 Texas House Democrats fled the Lone Star State for Washington, D.C., on a chartered jet to deny the Texas House a quorum, thereby at least temporarily preventing the passage of Republican-backed electoral reform legislation. While these Democrats may win the public relations battle this week, they are likely to lose the larger war over the electoral reform legislation, which sooner or later will be signed into law.

icon: Illustration of Democrats voting in Texas ballot box © iStock/The Hill Illustration Illustration of Democrats voting in Texas ballot box

The best Democrats can probably hope for from this effort will be some GOP concessions on the election reform legislation before it eventually reaches the governor's desk, unfavorable national and statewide media coverage of the Texas Republican Party and some new donors whose funds will support current activities and who will be tapped again for the 2022 campaign.

Analysis: Texas Democrats are on a desperate mission to stop GOP voting bills

  Analysis: Texas Democrats are on a desperate mission to stop GOP voting bills They're trying to save democracy by walking out on it. © Tamir Kalifa/Getty Images Texas state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, speaks alongside members of the Texas House Democratic Caucus and voting rights advocates during a rally outside of the Texas State Capitol on the first day of the 87th Legislature's special session on July 8, 2021 in Austin, Texas.

The stage for yesterday's quorum break was set in May on the last day for legislation to pass out of the House during the Texas Legislature's regular biennial session. House Democrats broke quorum to prevent the passage of a GOP-authored election reform bill, one that even many Republicans had qualms about due largely to the haphazard process by which changes had been made to it during the waning days of the regular session.

In response to the Democrats' May quorum break, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) vetoed the section of the state budget that funds the Texas Legislature's operations. He then called a special session to begin on July 8.

In Texas only the governor is empowered to call a special session, and can call an unlimited number of 30-day special sessions outside of the regular session (January to May of odd-numbered years). The power to set the agenda of these special sessions lies solely with the governor, and in his initial special session call, Abbott included election reform, the Texas Legislature's budget and nine other topics, including controversial legislation opposed by Democrats that would make it more difficult for low-income Texans to be released on bail and ban transgender students from playing sports on teams that match their gender identity.

Texas Dems Are Fighting for Democracy—Why Won’t Washington’s?

  Texas Dems Are Fighting for Democracy—Why Won’t Washington’s? Everything’s bigger in Texas, including Democrats’ political courage. On Monday morning, Texas Democrats stopped playing by the GOP’s rules in a state Republicans control and threw a wrench into Gov. Greg Abbott’s efforts to ram through a slew of voter suppression laws. How did Democrats manage to actually stall the Republican war on voting? They stopped compromising and started fighting. Fifty-eight Democratic members of the state’s House packed their bags and fled the state on Monday afternoon, just enough to paralyze legislative business in Austin.

The Democrats' quorum break hearkens back to 2003, when first Texas House Democrats and then Texas Senate Democrats fled to Oklahoma and New Mexico respectively to block a mid-decade redistricting plan engineered by former U.S. House GOP Majority Leader Tom Delay. Texas Democrats were ultimately unsuccessful in their efforts to block the passage of the new U.S. House map, and, in the subsequent 2004 U.S. House elections using the new map, Republicans saw their share of the 32 Texas seats rise from 15 to 21 while Democrats saw their share decrease from 17 to 11.

This is a war that Democrats probably cannot win. If the Democrats return to Texas, Department of Public Safety officers or Texas Rangers will track them down and bring them to the House floor to provide quorum. And in Texas, where legislators earn only $7,200 a year, many legislators have day jobs that will be difficult to do entirely from out of state if they are absent for more than a few weeks.

'We're buying some time': Texas Democrats heap pressure on Biden, Congress for voting rights action

  'We're buying some time': Texas Democrats heap pressure on Biden, Congress for voting rights action Texas House Democrats said Tuesday they can only hold off Republicans' push for restrictive new voting laws for weeks, as they urged President Joe Biden and Democratic members of Congress to look for new ways to implement federal protections -- including backing South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn's call for a filibuster carve-out for voting rights legislation. © KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS Representative Chris Turner (D-TX) joins other Democratic members of the Texas House of Representatives, who are boycotting a special session of the legislature in an effort to block Republican-backed voting restrictions, as they speak in front of the U.S.

Video: Texas Democrats leave state to block GOP voting restrictions bill (MSNBC)

Moreover, when the current special session ends on Aug. 6, Abbott will almost certainly call a new one to begin on Aug. 7 or shortly thereafter if his highest priority items (one of which is election reform) have not passed.

Furthermore, if these Texas House Democrats stay out of state past Aug. 31, come Sept.1 there will be no funding for the Texas Legislature, meaning that all of their staffers, along with those of other legislators and other legislative personnel, will not be paid or have health care coverage.

If Democrats can't win the war, then why fight the battle? There are four principal reasons. First, it draws national and statewide attention to their fight to thwart what they consider to be efforts to suppress Democratic voter participation in Texas.

Second, it could provide them with leverage to obtain concessions from Texas Republicans on some of the most objectionable components of the current election reform legislation, such as empowering partisan poll watchers to such an extent that they could intimidate vulnerable voters.

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Third, it will help them raise money both now and looking ahead to 2022. Fourth, Texas Democrats could believe that by highlighting efforts by Texas Republicans to make it more difficult for Texans to vote, they will help spur federal efforts to pass the For the People Act.

At some point during the latter half of July or in August, Texas House Democrats will likely return to Austin and provide a quorum, which will allow the GOP-sponsored election reform legislation to pass out of the Texas Legislature and then be signed into law by Abbott.

The Democratic gambit will be deemed a success based on the extent to which public opinion in Texas sours on the Texas GOP and on whether Republicans remove some of the sections of the election reform bill that Democrats consider the most pernicious. It will also depend on whether Democrats are able to raise large sums of money and attract new donors, and if the For the People Act advances in the U.S. Senate.

The Democratic gambit will be deemed a failure to the extent to which GOP attacks on Democrats for "dereliction of duty" and "failing to do the job they were elected to do" resonate with Texas voters, if no concessions are obtained on the election reform legislation that eventually passes and if the speaker of the Texas House, Dade Phelan, who has tried to maintain a good working relationship with Texas Democrats, feels compelled to allow his more conservative Republican colleagues to push through a battery of ultra-conservative bills in the current or future special sessions.

The long, 'surreal' days of the runaway Texas legislators

  The long, 'surreal' days of the runaway Texas legislators WASHINGTON (AP) — Sheltered in a downtown D.C. hotel, the Democratic lawmakers who left Texas to block a restrictive voting bill are living a life of stress and scrutiny. After bolting the state Monday in order to sabotage the bill by denying a quorum in the Texas House of Representatives, the more than 50 state legislators find themselves balancing a punishing schedule of political lobbying, outside work and family obligations, all under a national spotlight. © Provided by Associated Press Texas Voting Rights Many have left young children behind; most have other professional obligations back in Texas. All seem to be operating on minimal sleep.

These include bills that would adversely affect transgender children in terms of sports participation and ability to receive gender-affirming medical treatment as well as bills that would prevent local governments from using taxpayer funds to hire lobbyists to lobby the state government. This latter measure (which is not on the special session agenda but could be added) would be a double whammy for Democrats as it would both weaken the ability of the state's large Democratic-run cities and counties to lobby the state government as well as reduce the income of many Democratic state legislators who earn their living in part by lobbying on behalf of these local governments.

Mark P. Jones is the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy's fellow in political science and the Joseph D. Jamail chair in Latin American Studies at Rice University as well as a co-author of "Texas Politics Today." Follow him on Twitter @MarkPJonesTX.

Two more Texas Democrats diagnosed with COVID-19 .
Two more Texas Democrats have been diagnosed with COVID-19, bringing the total number of afflicted members to five, according to a new report. © Provided by Washington Examiner Following reports of the first three cases on Saturday, precautionary testing revealed two additional members, both of whom were fully vaccinated, had contracted the disease, according to a press release by the Texas House Democratic Caucus. The members are "feeling good, with no symptoms or only mild symptoms," the THDC added. "This morning, I received a positive COVID-19 rapid antigen result," state Rep.

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