July 14, 2021
Texas Democrats fled the state on Monday, July 12, in a last-ditch effort to prevent the passage of a restrictive new voting law by the Republican-controlled Legislature, The New York Times reports.
They said they were heading to Washington, D.C., to draw national attention to their cause.
The group left Austin in midafternoon on a pair of chartered flights that arrived at Dulles International Airport just before sunset. Fifty-one of the 67 State House Democrats flew on the planes, leaders of the delegation said, and several others arrived separately in the nation’s capital—enough lawmakers to prevent Texas Republicans from attaining a quorum, which is required to conduct state business.
The hastily arranged departure added a cinematic element to the partisan wrangling in a state with a colorful political history, the Times said. Democrats have fled to neighboring states in the past to try to block legislation—including in 2003, when they traveled to New Mexico and Oklahoma in an effort to avoid Republican attempts to redraw congressional districts.
The move could paralyze the Legislature for weeks, if Democrats remain out-of-state until this special session ends in August. Still, it lays bare their limited options long-term in a Legislature in which the Republicans hold the majority in both chambers. Parliamentary procedures and efforts to add amendments can delay the process but not derail it. Republicans said Monday that the Democrats’ gambit would ultimately fail.
Nevertheless, by traveling en masse to Washington, the Texas Democrats were hoping to apply pressure to Democrats in the U.S. Senate, who so far have been unable to pass federal legislation to address the issue.
“We have to decide if we are going to stand for democracy,” said State Representative Trey Martinez Fischer, who organized the effort to leave the state. “We want the nation to join us and we want the U.S. Senate to hear us and act.”
The move came just one day before President Biden is scheduled to deliver a major speech on voting rights in Philadelphia. Activists have been imploring the administration to address the issue with more urgency.
Research contact: @nytimes