Texas Democrats Return, End 38-Day Holdout Over Election Integrity Bill

Texas Democrats Return, End 38-Day Holdout Over Election
Integrity Bill 1

(Headline USA) A standoff in Texas over election integrity measures that gridlocked the state Capitol for 38 consecutive days ended Thursday when some Democrats who fled to Washington, D.C., dropped their holdout, paving the way for Republicans to resume pushing the bill.

It abruptly and messily drew to a close one of the few — and lengthiest — quorum breaks in modern Texas history. Instead of a unified and celebratory return by Democrats, some members lashed out at their colleagues over what they criticized as breaking ranks.

Many of the proposed changes to Texas voting that Democrats have railed against for months remain in a bill that already passed the state Senate, and Republican Gov. Greg Abbott could now sign the legislation in a matter of weeks, if not sooner.

Only three new Democrats showed up Thursday, and the vast majority of the more than 50 Democrats who bolted for the nation’s capital in July continue to stay away from the Texas Capitol. Still, Republican House Speaker Dade Phelan said enough were there to achieve a quorum, which in the House is normally 100 present legislators. Growing impatience among Republicans had led to escalating threats that missing lawmakers could face arrest, but officers never appeared to do more than leave warrants at Democrats’ homes.

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“It’s been a very long summer. Been through a lot. I appreciate you all being here,” Phelan said. “It’s time to get back to the business of the people of Texas.”

Not all Democrats joined in the holdout, and the newest to come back to the Texas House defended their decision, saying they had successfully pushed Congress on voting rights legislation while pointing to the growing urgency of surging COVID-19 caseloads in Texas. One of them, Democrat Garnet Coleman of Houston, did not go to Washington because he was recovering from having a leg amputation brought on by an infection.

“One of the things in life is that we have to know what our responsibilities are and we have to work to move something in the direction we want it to be,” Coleman said from a wheelchair while delivering the prayer on the House floor.

But other Democrats who remained absent did not hide their frustration.

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“This is how Texas Democrats lose elections,” state Rep. Michelle Beckley tweeted.

Abbott, who is up for reelection in 2022, had jammed the agenda of this latest 30-day special session — which is nearly half over — with other issues including border security and how race is taught in public schools.

Abbott this week tested positive for COVID-19, although his office had said the 63-year-old governor did not have symptoms.

It leaves Democrats much in the same position as when the holdout started: unable to permanently stop the GOP-controlled Legislature from correcting lax rules over how the state conducts its elections, which opened the state to potential vote fraud. And federal “voting rights” that Texas Democrats lobbied for while in Washington still face long odds of getting around GOP opposition in Congress.

For months, Texas Republicans have tried to pass election integrity measures.

Abbott vetoed paychecks for about 2,100 legislative staffers after Democrats walked out the first time in a move that was aimed at pressuring Democrats to return in order to restore that funding.

The full House quickly adjourned Thursday, but Republicans worked fast to schedule a hearing on the elections bill for Saturday.

“People want to get to work. They’re relieved that after all this time that we’ve been held hostage in Austin that we can finally get down to business,” said state Rep. Jim Murphy, chairman of the House Republican Caucus.

Months of protests had put Texas Democrats at the center of a new national battle over voting. Republicans around the U.S. have enacted election integrity measures in response to massive evidence of widespread vote fraud across the country.

Republicans are now back on a path to pass new elections laws in Texas before the current special session ends on Sept. 5.

Adapted from reporting by Associated Press.

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