State

Vice President Harris Praises Texas Democrats for ‘Great Sacrifice’ After Legislators Flee to Washington, D.C.

On Tuesday, most Democrats in the Texas House failed to attend a floor meeting of Gov. Greg Abbott’s special session and are currently subject to arrest by the sergeant at arms and his deputies. The same day, Vice President Kamala Harris met with them in Washington, D.C., and commended the lawmakers for their “great sacrifice” for leaving Texas to evade law enforcement and kill a Republican-backed election reform bill.

“You all know I’ve been traveling, and as most recently as yesterday when I was in Detroit and heard of your courageous stand, I talked about exactly what I believe about the courage, and the commitment, and the patriotism that you all have evidenced by your actions in addition to your work and your words,” Harris told the Democrats.

The vice president added, “And I know what you have done comes with great sacrifice, both personal and political.” Harris went on to liken the walkout to other civil rights landmarks in U.S. history, such as when the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed.

Harris also hosted a limited number of Democrats at the White House following the walkout that killed an earlier version of the bill during the 87th Texas legislature’s regular session.

Democrats believe that the Republican election reform bill, House Bill (HB) 3, is a threat to the right to vote and has racially discriminatory intent. The author of HB 3, Rep. Andrew Murr (R-Junction), laid out the intent of the legislation in a committee hearing last weekend and contended that its passage is necessary to increase faith in the state’s electoral process.

The bill states the legislative intent is to make elections “uniform and consistent throughout this state to reduce the likelihood of fraud in the conduct of elections, protect the secrecy of the ballot, promote voter access, and ensure that all legally cast ballots are counted.”

Among other policies, the bill expands access to polling places by poll watchers and prohibits the use of temporary structures as polling places except during certain disasters.

The chairman of the Texas House GOP caucus, Rep. Jim Murphy (R-Houston), said in a press conference Tuesday he hoped absent Democrats’ “better angels will prevail” and they will choose to return.

Without a sufficient number of lawmakers in the room, or two-thirds as required for a quorum in the Texas House, legislators can do virtually nothing. After standing at ease since Tuesday afternoon, the chamber met briefly on Wednesday for a prayer and almost immediately stood at ease again, with Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) remarking that the “only business that’s permitted is a daily prayer.” Phelan then distributed permission slips to lawmakers to allow them to leave, which is required during a call of the House.

For his part, the governor showed no signs of blinking first. Abbott indicated in a radio appearance that he would repeatedly call special sessions until Democrats chose to return to Austin. Murphy aligned himself with that sentiment, telling reporters that this could go on until January 2023.

In the meantime, the Texas legislature is about as useful as an ice cream social.

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