Texas House Democrats—who fled the state in a bold move to halt the advancement of a sweeping voter suppression bill—urged the White House and Senate Democrats on Tuesday to pass federal voting rights legislation.
At a press conference Tuesday in Washington, DC, the group of Democrats specifically called on Biden and Congress to demonstrate “the same courage” they had shown by traveling to the nation’s capital during a special legislative session that had been called by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who has since threatened to arrest the more than 50 Democrats who fled. As they did in a statement confirming their plans to boycott the session before hopping aboard two private planes on Monday, the group once again hailed both the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and the For the People Act as examples of model legislation for protecting voting rights at the federal level and implored Congress to pass them.
“We were quite literally forced to move and leave the state of Texas,” Texas Rep. Rhetta Bowers said in a press conference flanked by some of her fellow state Democrats. “We also know that we are living right now on borrowed time in Texas. And we can’t stay here indefinitely, to run out the clock, to stop Republican anti-voter bills.” Bowers said that although Texas Democrats would use “everything in our power to fight back,” they ultimately needed Congress to act with the same urgency.
“We are not going to buckle to the ‘big lie’ in the state of Texas—the ‘big lie’ that has resulted in anti-democratic legislation throughout the United States,” Rep. Rafael Anchia added.
Abbott on Monday vowed to arrest the Democrats that had walked out on the session, thus denying the state’s House of Representatives the two-thirds quorum required to conduct official state business. In recent weeks, Texas Republicans, led by Abbott, have aggressively pushed to enact a sweeping set of bills that seek to ban drive-through and 24-hour voting, add new ID requirements for mail voting, and prohibit election officials from proactively sending out absentee ballot request forms.
“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,” Abbott threatened on Monday. Other Republicans in the state blasted their Democratic counterparts for staging a publicity stunt.
Tuesday’s press conference came hours ahead of President Biden’s much-anticipated speech on voting rights in Philadelphia, where he’ll make a forceful condemnation of Republican efforts to enact voter suppression laws. His message, however, is not expected to include support for ending the Senate’s filibuster rules, which advocates say stand in the way of passing meaningful protections for voting rights.