Texas Democrats Break Quorum, Flee Austin to Stop Republicans’ Election Bill
Do you agree with Texas Democrats breaking quorum to stop GOP bills?
What’s the story?
- For the second time in seven weeks, Texas Democrats have left the state capital in Austin to break a quorum and deny Republican majorities in the legislature the ability to send legislation ― including a controversial election reform bill ― to the GOP governor’s desk.
- Texas House Democratic lawmakers bussed to an airport near Austin (with a case of Miller Lite onboard) and took a pair of private jets to Washington, D.C. While not all members of the Democratic caucus left the Lone Star State, the traveling party is large enough to deny the necessary two-thirds quorum for the House to conduct business.
- A special session of the legislature convened last week to address several of Republicans’ legislative priorities that were left unfinished after the regular session concluded at the end of May with a walkout by Texas Democrats over the election bill.
- In addition to the election reform bill, the GOP’s agenda for the special session includes a bill to require that transgender student-athletes only compete on teams designated for the sex that is stated on their birth certificate, border security, bail reform, and several other pieces of legislation.
- Under the rules of the Texas legislature, the party in the majority can request that public safety officials compel the attendance of absent members. Those officials only have jurisdiction within the state and are unable to travel to D.C. to bring the Democratic lawmakers back and restore a quorum, but GOP leaders have signaled that they will call for the arrest and compulsory attendance of non-compliant lawmakers who return to Texas.
What they’re saying
- Leaders of the Texas House Democratic Caucus released the following statement on their decision to break quorum:
“Today, Texas House Democrats stand united in our decision to break quorum and refuse to let the Republican-led legislature force through dangerous legislation that would trample on Texans’ freedom to vote. We are now taking the fight to our nation’s Capitol. We are living on borrowed time in Texas. We need Congress to act now to pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act to protect Texans ― and all Americans ― from the Trump Republicans’ nationwide war on democracy.”
- Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R-TX) blasted Democrats for breaking quorum in a video post to Twitter in which he said:
“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. Issues like property tax relief, funding to support sheriffs and law enforcement in high crime areas, funding for children in the foster care system, and funding for retired teachers. The Democrats must put aside partisan political games and get back to the job they were elected to do. Their constituents must not be denied these important resources simply because their elected representative refused to show up to work.”
- Texas’s Senate Democratic caucus may join their House colleagues in denying the quorum, which would prevent the chamber from taking votes even though the absence of a House quorum forestalls the legislature’s ability to send bills to the governor’s desk for enactment. Democrats have said that they will deny a quorum for as long as necessary, with progressive Rep. James Talarico (D-Round Rock) tweeting:
“We left behind our families, our livelihoods, and our beloved Texas. But our sacrifice is nothing compared to the sacrifices brave Americans have made throughout history to protect the sacred right to vote. We’re prepared to stay out of Texas for the rest of the session. This decision wasn’t easy. Many of my colleagues left kids, elderly parents, and sick loved ones. Many are risking their day jobs & their seats in the House. But we won’t sit by and watch democracy wither on the vine.”
- Gov. Abbott said in an interview that he will keep trying to bring back the Texas legislature, which holds biennial sessions and isn’t scheduled to conduct business in 2022, and said in an interview:
“I can and I will continue to call a special session after special session after special session all the way up until the election next year. And so if these people want to be hanging out wherever they're hanging out on this taxpayer-paid junket, they're going to have to be prepared to do it for well over a year. As soon as they come back to the state of Texas, they will be arrested, they will be cabined inside the Texas Capitol until they get their job done.”
What are legislative quorums?
- The U.S. Congress and state legislatures around the country require that a quorum of lawmakers be present for business to be conducted on the floor. The Constitution defines a quorum in Congress as a majority of each chamber, which amounts to 51 senators and 218 House members when the chambers are at their full complement of lawmakers. Similar definitions have been adopted by state legislatures.
- In Congress, both chambers presume that a quorum is present when they’re in session for floor votes based on unanimous consent from leaders, so each can conduct business without a quorum being physically present in the chamber, although a member can “suggest the absence of a quorum” and initiate a quorum call to verify it.
- The Senate often holds routine quorum calls to bide floor time ahead of a vote or to allow work to continue off the floor without adjournment. These are occasionally punctuated by a senator asking to “vitiate the quorum call” so that they can deliver remarks, and are usually rescinded by unanimous consent so senators aren’t actually being asked to register their presence. Occasionally, the Senate will hold a “live” quorum call in which senators are asked to come to the floor ahead of a key vote or to verify there is a quorum.
- To deter the practice of “quorum busting” ― in which lawmakers collude to not respond to the quorum call so as to prevent the chamber from conducting business ― legislative bodies often allow a minority party to compel the attendance of absent members. While this can theoretically entail the arrest of the absentee lawmaker, that route has been used rarely as the Senate Historical Office notes the first physical act of compulsion didn’t occur until 1988 when then-Sen. Bob Packwood (R-OR) was carried feet-first into the chamber by Capitol Police in an effort to establish a quorum on a campaign finance reform bill.
- This isn’t the first time the Texas legislature has seen quorum busting. In 2003, Texas House Democrats fled to Oklahoma to stop a redistricting bill in the regular session while their Senate counterparts fled to New Mexico during a special session later that year.
- There have also been quorum busting efforts or “walking filibusters” embarked upon in other states in recent decades. Oregon Democrats staged walkouts in 1971, 1995, and 2001, with the most recent being over redistricting, while Oregon Republicans walked out three times in 2019-2020 to block climate, gun control, and tax increase bills after many traveled to Idaho. In 2011, Indiana Democrats held a six-week walkout to block a right-to-work bill while across Lake Michigan, Wisconsin Democrats fled to Illinois to stall a budget bill. Tennessee Democrats also attempted a walkout to stop a 2019 bill that created block grants for Medicaid in the Volunteer State.
- In late May 2021, Texas Democrats walked out to break quorum at the end of the regular legislative session to prevent the enactment of the Republican election bill.
— Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: runneralan2004 via Flickr / Creative Commons)
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This is what I sent to ALL my congressman Pass the John Lewis Voting bill and For The People bill to protect voting right! If we truly believe in democracy, then it’s a no brained to pass these bills into law. All citizens should have easy access to voting! 1. ID for voting is good, but if you require that it be a drivers license or state issued ID, then you MUST first make getting an ID easy and accessible to all citizens. My mom was born at home. She never had a real birth certificate. Her birth was registered with the state, but she never saw her birth certificate. Poor, elderly, those without access to internet need help obtaining these official papers. 2. Taking away voting places in neighborhoods of color is horrid. Making people stand in line for hours upon hours to vote is cruel! Have YOU ever had to do that? I did! I wanted to vote in a democratic primary. I live in Coppell. My husband and I had to stand in line for over 4 hours in Valley Ranch. We were lucky to have money to pay for a sitter for our 3 children, but most people can’t do that! We drove passed 3 Republican polling places that had no lines in our small town. That is discrimination! It was the year Cruz won the primary for republicans. That wasn’t long ago! 3. Registered voters should ALL be allowed to vote by mail and/ or drop off ballots at secure locations because of family or job obligations many can’t stand in lines. Even as a teacher with 3 children at home and my teaching job, it was difficult to stand in line in the evenings to vote. Why should it be difficult to vote in the USA? 4. Making it easy to overturn an election or throw out votes because someone claims fraud without real proof is 3rd world country tyranny! This is against all we stand for as a country! One last classic question! Would YOU and your family be willing to be treated like a person of color? Answer that in your heart and soul and before God truthfully? What is your real motivation? I believe that the GOP has turned to an authoritarianism to keep people of color and woman from flexing their intelligence and their demand for equal justice and rights under the law! I’m not ASKING for equal rights! I’m DEMANDING to recognize my equal rights! Equal rights/human rights are not owned by you! They are not yours to give…but you are stealing them and I want them back!
Voting rights by any means necessary!
People don’t vote for people who don’t do their jobs. Democrat reps need to do their jobs and return to Texas. They are abandoning their constituents because they don’t want to do the work they were supposedly elected to do.
Take away their pay and lock them up for being cowards
I am grateful to the Texas Democrats for standing up for Voting Rights. They have brought attention to the threat to our democracy and they have bravely taken a risk as the attention seeking governor of Texas says he will arrest them when they return home.
TEXAS NEEDS TO LOCK ALL THEM DEMS UP IN PRISON FOR FLEEING FROM THEIR JOBS THAT TAX PAYERS PAY THEM TO DO!!!
The FLEEbags took the jab and STILL caught the Virus. 😂 Would love to see them perp walked when they step foot back in Texas. Such cowards.
The Texas Democrats take their cue from Oregon Republicans. Any Republican who supported the Oregon walkout yet speaks out against the Texas Democrats is a lying hypocrite-Texas Three Stooges I’m looking at you. Free Country Free Choice right Stooges. If their constituents support them you keep your noses out of their business and your mouths shut. 🇺🇸 God Bless America 🇺🇸 God Bless the Biden Administration 🇺🇸
The GOP continues its decades-long assault on voting rights instead of choosing to actually represent the American people.
we all need to fight voter restriction laws aimed, the right to vote is more important than the right to bear arms.
Proud to be a Texan, but just need them to keep up the pressure. This isn’t over and the fact that it’s taken Texas Dems until now to grow a spine is an issue. ALL Democrats should realize the voters put them in office to stop the incursion against our democracy through restrictive voter laws and discriminatory practices designed to limit the body politic. Do your job! This is the BARE minimum of what’s necessary to preserve our democratic norms.
Texas Republicans are trying to suppress voting and working against democracy. They should be voted out of office. They have lost their way and stand for nothing constructive for our country. They continue to lie and cheat their way to power and will do anything to keep it.
To all the people saying that these representatives should be fired for not doing their job: I voted for one of these Texas dems and their actions today reflect my values. I think they did a great job. I hope they keep it up!
Tell the Democrats to get back to work!
Governor Abbot has called the legislature back for a second special session for an agenda that most Texans do not agree with when it comes to restricting voting rights. This proposed legislation is based on the big lie that the election was stolen from Trump and the lie that there is any substantial voter fraud. Republicans need to start telling the public the truth that this legislation is designed to strip the vote from likely Democratic voters in order for the Republicans to maintain power and win elections that they would not otherwise win.
Our President gave one heck of a speech yesterday regarding protecting the Right to Vote.....Our biggest and loudest method of Freedom of Speech....and I do not see that Causes has addressed this at all today. I also heard Mitch McConnell's reply to our President's speech.....Wow.....SO loud......using SO many powerful words to speak against Pres. Biden......Where, I wonder was all this thunder when Trump called Ashley Babbit a martyr?.......or said that the Insurrection attempt was really some kind of Love Fest. A "love fest" where 140 Capitol police were injured and 6 people subsequently died and the "love festers" were chanting "Hang Mike Pence".....or at Trump's continual pushing of "Voter Fraud" and The Big Lie......Or missing opportunity after opportunity to announce that Joe Biden is indeed President......or when Trump added the bubble on the Weather Map to make it agree with HIS asinine prediction of where a hurricane was going.......Or when Trump said "there was good people on BOTH sides" after the tiki torch white supremist get together which killed Heather..or when Trump suggested we use Bleach or UV light somehow internally to kill the virus that has now killed over 600,000 of us.....etc., etc. Where was your "passion" then Mitch?
Texas Democrats are doing everything they can to prevent these voter suppression laws from becoming law. Democratic senators need to help them by reforming or eliminating the filibuster so that the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act can finally pass and democracy can be saved.
It is only fair that if Republicans in Washington D.C. abuse the filibuster to obstruct Democratic voting rights legislation that Texas Democrats counter Republicans by utilizing quorum to obstruct Republican voter-suppression laws! If Republicans are waging war against Democracy, then of course Democrats are going to fight back!
They did more than break the quorum. Acting like little children, they fled their state and did not uphold their responsibilities to vote as they should…. and as such they should be arrested.
"SO THAT ALL MAY BE HEARD" Here is hoping all other states do the same!