Texas Democrats defy arrest threat by governor, call for federal election reforms
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Vice President Kamala Harris heaped praise Tuesday on dozens of Democratic Texas state legislators who flew to Washington rather than take part in a special session at which election reform legislation was to be considered.
“Defending the right of the American people to vote is as American as apple pie,” said Harris, who went on to compare the lawmakers’ actions to women’s suffrage and civil rights marches.
Earlier in the day, the legislators shrugged off Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s threat to have them arrested for refusing to take part in the special session, holding a news conference at which they performed an off-key rendition of the civil rights anthem “We Shall Overcome.”
The Texas Democrats have said they will use their time in Washington to push lawmakers to support two election reform bills: The For The People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. A spokesman for Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), a moderate Democrat who stoked progressive outrage last month by coming out against the For The People Act, said Tuesday that Manchin will also meet with the legislators.
Harris previously praised the Texas Democrats’ “courage and commitment” at an event in Michigan on Monday, saying: “I applaud them standing for the rights of all Americans, and all Texans to express their voice through their vote, unencumbered.”
Back in Austin, the Democrats’ departure means the Texas House of Representatives no longer has a quorum to consider any legislation, though they did vote 76 to 4 Tuesday to direct the Sergeant-at-Arms to send for all absentee members by “warrant of arrest if necessary.”
Republicans say the reforms set out in the new law — which include ending 24-hour polling places, banning ballot drop boxes, and empowering partisan poll watchers — are designed to ensure the integrity of the vote by preventing voter fraud. Democrats say the legislation is meant to prevent poor and minority voters from casting ballots.
Meanwhile, Abbott vowed Monday that he will continue to call “special session after special session after special session all the way up until [the] election next year” until the legislation is passed.
“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,” the governor told KVUE. “As soon as they come back in the state of Texas, they will be arrested, they will be cabined inside the Texas Capitol until they get their job done.”
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