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Texas Democrats In Washington ‘Hanging On’ For Federal Voting Legislation Before Returning Home

Some of the Texas House Democrats who left Texas for Washington met with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in July.
Some of the Texas House Democrats who left Texas for Washington met with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in July.

From Texas Standard:

Texas’s first special legislative session is set to end on Friday, but with several House Democrats still in Washington after they fled the state in protest of Republican-backed voting legislation, much is still up in the air about their next move ahead of another likely special session.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced Thursday that the next special legislative session will start on Saturday, Aug. 7.

Cayla Harris, politics reporter for the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News, told Texas Standard that the dozens of Democrats who fled are still mulling what their next step will be, but assert that it will be a group decision.

“I think there’s a strong desire, no matter what they do, to make a caucus-wide decision,” she said. “I think they saw some defections earlier and they just really want to avoid any narrative that, that they’re separated. So whatever they decide, I think they’re going to do it together.”

Democrats have been in Washington for more than three weeks, and the time away is weighing on them, she says. In part, the stress is personal: they’ve been away from their families for weeks, and paying for hotel rooms and meals away means the decampment has been costly. Some of those stresses could influence their decision about when to return.

But Harris says they’re also determined to achieve what they set out to do by going there, which was to try to encourage Congress to pass the For the People Act, which would dramatically change federal voting laws. If those laws change, it could trump Texas Republicans’ efforts to shape voting laws on a state level.

The clock is ticking on that, however, since Congress is headed for summer recess on Aug. 9.

“They have another day in Washington tomorrow, and that’s the last day before their recess,” Harris said. “So that’s kind of why some of the Texas Democrats are hanging on.”

Whenever Texas Democrats do return to the state, they’ll face a governor who has committed to holding multiple special sessions in order to pass voting legislation. Republicans have made some concessions to Democrats along the way, Harris says, but they’re not likely to make more, especially on “non-negotiable” provisions like allowing 24-hour voting.

Harris says the next two or three days will determine whether Democrats come home now, or decide to stay in Washington longer.

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Michael Marks
Caroline Covington is Texas Standard's digital producer/reporter. She joined the team full time after finishing her master's in journalism at the UT J-School. She specializes in mental health reporting, and has a growing interest in data visualization. Before Texas Standard, Caroline was a freelancer for public radio, digital news outlets and podcasts, and produced a podcast pilot for Audible. Prior to journalism, she wrote and edited for marketing teams in the pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries. She has a bachelor's in biology from UC Santa Barbara and a master's in French Studies from NYU.
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