Texas state lawmakers, enacting an intricately plotted escape, left their posts and the Lone Star state itself and took flight to Washington on Monday on an extraordinary mission to halt Republican restrictive voting bills built on former President Donald Trump’s fraud lies.
After stepping off two chartered jets, they insisted they planned to stay until a highly unlikely scenario unfolds in which moderate Democratic senators kill filibuster rules used by the GOP to block voting rights reform.
“We are coming to DC to put pressure on them to act, because this isn’t just Texas,” Texas Democratic state Rep. John Bucy III told CNN’s Erin Burnett on Monday.
“All over the South and in Republican states, we are seeing voter suppression bills. We need Congress to pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act,” said Bucy, who unlike his colleagues set off the long drive from Texas to the US capital.
The spectacle is the latest stunning example of how the US political system is on the edge of meltdown as a result of turmoil triggered by Trump’s false claims of a stolen election, which are now taken as fact by millions of Republican voters. The move also represents the growing desperation of Democrats who believe that their chances of winning future elections, including in 2022 and 2024, are being undermined by orchestrated assaults on the voting system by the GOP.
In effect, the fleeing Texas House Democrats are denying Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott a quorum in a special session he called partly to pass a new measure that critics say severely curtails access to voting, especially for Democratic and Black voters. The dramatic gambit is the ultimate act of civil disobedience by the Texas lawmakers. It is intended to provide a stark contrast with federal Democrats — like West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin — who are unwilling to break their own conventions to overturn the Senate filibuster.
The lawmakers hope that they can hold off the passage of the Texas law to give them time to somehow convince senators to pass new federal measures that would supersede their state’s legislation, which is likely to eventually pass.
Chris Turner, chairman of the Texas House Democratic Caucus, told CNN’s Anderson Cooper after landing at Dulles International Airport outside Washington that he had a clear message for the US Senate.
“You have to act, and you have to act now. There’s no more waiting,” he said. “We need Congress to pass federal voting rights legislation to save our democracy because these Republican attacks will continue to occur, over and over again, in Texas and across the country.”
But the action of the Texas Democrats raises its own uncomfortable questions about the health of American democracy — as did walkouts by state Republican lawmakers in Oregon in recent years, for example, to block the passage of progressive legislation by Democratic majorities.
While the sincerity of Texas Republicans appears tainted by political opportunism, their majorities in the state legislature and Abbott’s position in the governor’s mansion were themselves the product of fair and democratic elections. In this case it is Democrats, rather than Republicans, disrupting regular order and challenging the principle that power follows certified elections in which the will of voters are expressed.
Biden to address voting rights
The walkout — which could force the lawmakers to stay out their home state until the end of the special session, well into August — also comes as Presid
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