Updated Jul 13, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Texas Democrats who fled state urge Congress to pass voting rights legislation

Texas House Democrats
Texas State Rep. Chris Turner flanked by other Texas Democrats. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Dozens of Texas Democratic lawmakers held a press conference in D.C. on Tuesday to urge Congress to pass federal voting rights legislation, one day after they fled Texas to block the Republican-led legislature from passing restrictive new voting laws.

The latest: The Texas House of Representatives voted Tuesday to track down and force the Democrats to return to the legislature "under warrant of arrest if necessary," though it's unclear how that could be accomplished since Texas law enforcement lacks jurisdiction in D.C., according to the Texas Tribune.

Driving the news: The Democratic lawmakers acknowledged Tuesday that the gambit to prevent the Texas House from achieving quorum is only a temporary solution, noting they "are living right now on borrowed time in Texas."

  • Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said on Monday that the lawmakers who left the state will be arrested upon their return to the state. He added that he will continue to call for special sessions until voting legislation is passed.
  • 57 Democratic lawmakers who fled Texas have asked the state House clerk to lock their voting machines in their absence.

What they're saying: "Our intent is to stay out and kill this bill, this session, and use the intervening time — I think 24, 25 days now — before the end of this session to implore [Congress] to pass federal voting rights legislation to protect voters in Texas and across the country," Texas State Rep. Chris Turner said at the conference.

  • "We can't hold this tide back forever. We're buying some time, we need Congress and all of our federal leaders to use that time wisely," Turner added.
  • Turner said that he hopes President Biden — who is delivering a major speech on voting rights on Tuesday afternoon — will give a "clear plan of action" on how to break gridlock in the Senate to pass voting rights legislation this summer.

The big picture: Senate Republicans last month filibustered the "For The People Act," a sweeping federal elections overhaul that would create national standards for early voting and voter registration, end partisan gerrymandering, reform campaign finance and ethics laws, and more.

  • There is no virtually no chance of the bill earning the 60 votes it needs in the Senate to overcome a filibuster. Even if Democrats moved to abolish the filibuster, which is also highly unlikely, moderate Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) has expressed opposition to the bill.
  • The Texas voting bills are part of a wave of proposals to restrict access to the ballot box being considered in GOP-led state legislatures in the wake of the 2020 election.

What to watch: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he would be meeting with the Texas Democrats later today "to plot out strategy and to praise them for what they are doing," per CNN.

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