Texas Democrats’ historic walkout to block GOP elections bills receives national praise and condemnation

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People hold signs near the Austin airport supporting Texas Democrats who decided to break quorum and leave the state July 12, 2021 (KXAN Photo/Todd Bynum)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Texas Democratic lawmakers drew a line in the sand on Monday afternoon after staging a planned walkout of the state Capitol and onto a flight to Washington D.C. — all in their latest effort to block Republican elections overhaul bills, which Democrats say are merely voter suppression.

The bills stem from the previous Senate Bill 7, which was defeated by another Democratic walk-out. But this week, Senate Bill 1 and its House equivalent received their first hearings. Despite no proof of widespread fraud in Texas’ 2020 Election, state Republicans have honed in on “election integrity” as a major party platform.

Over the weekend, hundreds waited up to 17 hours to testify against the bills, which have been accused by detractors as an attempt to prevent Democrats — and particularly voters of color — from getting to the ballot box.

The bills would limit early voting hours, ban drive-thru and mail-in ballot drop boxes and allow partisan poll watchers to record voters who receive help filling out ballots. It would also become a crime for local elections officials to encourage voting by mail.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott expressed his displeasure Monday, saying:

“Texas Democrats’ decision to break a quorum of the Texas Legislature and abandon the Texas State Capitol inflicts harm on the very Texans who elected them to serve. As they fly across the country on cushy private planes, they leave undone issues that can help their districts and our state.”

Gov. Greg Abbott

Meanwhile, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said Democrats were “failing democracy.”

“This immature behavior by House Democrats is not only childish; it is a disgrace to democracy. House Democrats have hurt their constituents and demonstrated that when they’re faced with a problem, they run away – literally. It’s shameful and they have failed as elected officials,” Paxton said.

Texas Democrat lawmakers/leaders

Former State Rep. Beto O’Rourke: “These Texas Democrats are the courage the country needs right now. They give us a fighting chance to pass the For the People Act — and save our democracy.”

State Rep. James Talarico: “My Democratic colleagues and I are leaving the state to break quorum and kill the Texas voter suppression bill. We’re flying to DC to demand Congress pass the For The People Act and save our democracy. Good trouble.”

State Rep. Joaquin Castro: “Texas Democrats are doing everything in their power to defend our democracy. In tomorrow’s speech in Philadelphia, I hope President Biden urges Senators to (at least) exempt voting rights legislation from the filibuster. This is a now-or-never moment for American democracy.”

Julian Castro: “I’m proud of Texas Democrats for once again showing Washington what it looks like to fight for our democracy and voting rights. It’s time for Congress and the White House to follow their lead. End the filibuster. Protect voting rights.”

State Rep. Jasmine Crockett: “We are doing what is absolutely lawful under the Texas constitution. And so long as I am doing what is lawful under the Constitution, I am doing my job because my job isn’t to be there to serve the interests of the Republicans, my job is to serve the interests of those in House District 100. And I’m telling you, my phone has been blowing up saying y’all need to get out of there.

State Rep. Lloyd Doggett: “Greg Abbott and his Republican cohorts have messed with Texan voters one too many times. Our Texas Democrats are breaking quorum rather than being accomplices to breaking democracy. Looking forward to welcoming these good troublemakers to Washington soon.”

Texas Republican lawmakers/leaders

Lt. Governor Dan Patrick: “Smiling House Dems fly off to DC on a private jet with a case of Miller Lite, breaking House quorum, abandoning their constituents, while the Senate still works. It’s my hope that Senate Dems report tomorrow to do what they were elected to do. We will vote on #SB1.”

Sen. John Cornyn: “It’s not very Texan. You stay and you fight.”

State Rep. Dan Crenshaw: “The American flag is carried by freedom-loving people around the world who take to their streets in protest of real government oppression. It’s a symbol of hope and liberty in countries that have neither. Remember that the next time the left says our flag is a symbol of hate.”

Organizations

DNC Chairperson Jaime Harrison: “I am inspired by these brave lawmakers. They are demonstrating that they will put everything on the line to fight for our democracy and our precious right to vote. The DNC will not relent and will continue fighting back against Republicans’ outrageous efforts to prevent citizens across the country from making their voices heard at the ballot box.”

Texas For All Coalition: “For Texans across our great state, for the hundreds of voters who signed up to testify against the restrictive legislation and for the advocates who fought relentlessly, thanklessly and tirelessly to protect every eligible voter’s access to the ballot box, today is a historic day for voting rights. As our legislators touch down in D.C., we’ll continue standing in support of them—they had our backs, now we have theirs.”

League of Women Voters of Texas: “As a non-partisan organization whose mission is empowering voters and defending democracy, the League is deeply disappointed that only extreme measures like the legislative exodus we saw today can prevent Texans from losing their voting rights.”

Nationwide

Texas Democrats’ gesture reverberated across the country, with many calling for U.S. Democrats to make similar moves — including eliminating the Senate filibuster — to pass voting rights bills.

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