Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) threatened to arrest Democratic state legislators who decided to “flee” to Washington to avoid the quorum needed to vote on the Republican Party’s electoral reform bill.
In an interview with Fox News, Abbott criticized the Democrats and stated that “the missing legislators will be arrested when they return to the state.”
Abbott clarified that members of the Texas House of Representatives who are in the state can call for the arrest of their colleagues for not showing up to vote: “Once they step back into the state they will be arrested and brought back to the Capitol.”
Republicans argue that the controversial bill would provide greater election security. Democrats claim, without evidence, the bill would suppress the participation of minorities such as youth, racial minorities, and people with disabilities.
The Democratic lawmakers’ flight is the second in protest mode. They will not be able to permanently block the vote unless other contentious GOP-backed proposals come up for debate.
“We have special sessions that last 30 days,” Greg Abbott said, “And the governor calls them, and I will continue calling special session after special session because over time it is going to continue until they step up to vote.”
The lawmakers left the Austin (Texas) airport on two private planes Monday afternoon and by the evening, when they arrived in Washington, said they would not be swayed.
It is the second time this year that Texas Democrats have rebelled against Republicans, who control both houses of the state legislature, to boycott voting on legislation aimed at ensuring election integrity.
In late May, after a tense debate in the state House, Democrats decided to slowly leave the floor to prevent a quorum from forming.
Democrat legislators called cowards
Republican lawmakers took offense to Democrats heading to DC and pointed out that they “hid” instead of staying in Austin to debate the legislation.
“Enjoy the all-expenses paid charter jet and vacation in DC. But you really should be earning your taxpayer provided income rather than running and hiding,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) said on Twitter.
Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) tweeted about the Democrats that “Hard to imagine a more delusional group of people – thinking that lying about these bills, hopping on a chartered flight, sipping beer, and skipping work is ‘sacrifice.’ You guys are pathetic. Totally pathetic.”
“What a bunch of cowards these Texas Democrats are. Cowards are never moral and these losers have abdicated their duty to represent their constituents both Republican and Democrat,” said businessman and political commentator Caleb Bonham.
What is the bill that Democrats want to boycott?
Republicans have proposed two bills, known as HB3 and SB1. If passed, they would prohibit voting from a vehicle, place limitations on voting by mail, and punish those who commit election crimes.
State Sen. Bryan Hughes, the Republican sponsor of one of the bills, said most of the security measures are not aimed at individual voters, but at vote collectors or people who are trying to steal votes.
“So what Texas is doing is we’re making it easier to vote by adding more hours in early voting than we have in current law, but also making it harder to cheat with regard to mail in ballot,” Governor Greg Abbott said.