Texas Democrats criticize colleagues who returned to state House floor


Nearly three dozen Texas Democrats on Friday bashed colleagues who returned to the state House floor in Austin this week, a move that restored quorum to the chamber and likely will allow a GOP elections measure to advance.

Thirty-four state House members criticized the three Democrats who essentially ended the more than monthlong boycott of a special session of the state legislature.

Several Democrats had left the state for Washington, D.C., to protest the measure, which Democrats say will suppress the votes of Black people, Hispanics and other groups.

“We are disappointed that a few Democrats chose to return to the floor. We feel betrayed and heartbroken, but our resolve is strong and this fight is not over," the lawmakers said in their letter. "With their questionable quorum, Republicans are now fully enabled and empowered to enact virtually all of [Texas GOP Gov. Greg] Abbott’s directives, including many dangerous pieces of legislation that will fundamentally hurt the lives of Texans.”

The statement came hours after a quorum was achieved Thursday night three Houston Democrats returned to Austin and one Republican, state Rep. Steve Allison, was present to vote a day after testing positive for the coronavirus.

The three Democrats — state Reps. Ana Hernandez, Armando Walle and Garnet Coleman — were among the lawmakers who fled to Washington in July and said in a joint statement that they were proud of the work Democrats had done against the voting bill.

“We took the fight for voting rights to Washington, D.C. and brought national attention to the partisan push in our state to weaken ballot access,” the three said in a statement. “Our efforts were successful and served as the primary catalyst to push Congress to take action on federal voter protection legislation. Now, we continue the fight on the House Floor.”

The Democratic boycott was always considered a temporary measure, intended mainly to build up national opposition to the voting bill. While in Washington the Texas lawmakers met with several senators and Vice President Harris, touting their meetings as evidence that the party stood firmly behind restricting access to the ballot box.

Still, the three lawmakers’ return to Austin marks a victory for Republicans who will now be able to move forward with their bill, which, among other things, bar 24-hour voting stations and drive-thru voting, place new restrictions on absentee voting and expand partisan poll watchers’ access to ballot tabulation. 

The bill has already passed the state Senate, and the state House is expected to consider it Monday after it returns from its weekend adjournment.

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