Austin, TX

Will Runaway House Democrats Board Jets on Standby to Get Back to Work in Austin?

Nicole Akers

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Austin democrats run off to WashingtonPhoto by Alejandro Barba on Unsplash

Austin, TX- House democrats left their seats vacant in Austin and ran away in the middle of a Special Legislative Session called by Governor Greg Abbott, breaking quorum so they don't have to vote on the issue of voting rights. They don't have the votes to stop the bill from passing so they run away instead.

Three of the lawmakers who made the trip were fully vaccinated and tested positive for Coivd19. KXAN Austin issues a statement from Caucus Chair Chris Turner:

“The House Democratic Caucus is following all CDC guidance and protocols. This is a sober reminder that COVID is still with us, and though vaccinations offer tremendous protection, we still must take necessary precautions. We are in touch with public health experts in Texas to provide additional guidance. Our caucus will follow all recommendations from public health experts as we continue our work.”--TEXAS HOUSE DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS

Instead of showing up to work to do their job during a Special Legislative Session costing taxpayers more than $1 million, they chartered jets and boarded their cushy accommodations to go to Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. to break quorum.

During the Special Session, lawmakers receive a monthly salary of $600 for the month plus a per diem of $221 every day the session continues. And the House Democrats hope to stay in Washington as long as necessary so that they don't have to be present to vote on the issue of voting rights. Voting rights and all other issues on the agenda for the Special Session have come to a screeching halt.

Democratic leader Jim Dunnan says it was worth the effort to put a national spotlight on their mission:

“When we did what we did, it got a lot of national and even international attention. It shone a spotlight on what they were trying to do, to manipulate the electoral system,” Dunnam told KXAN on Monday. “That stopped other states from moving forward and doing something similar.”

The Texas Constitution requires a two-thirds quorum; House needs two-thirds of its lawmakers to be present in order to conduct state business. Lawmakers who are not present cannot be legally compelled to attend. So Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan (R) wants to make it easy for House Democrats to return home to Austin. He has a jet on standby to hasten their return:

"In an effort to further compel House Democrats to return to the State of Texas, I am chartering a plane that will be on standby in Washington, D.C. on Saturday," Phelan said in a statement. "I am demanding all of our colleagues in D.C. to contact my staff immediately in order to secure their seat on the plane and return to Austin in order to do the state's business. The State of Texas is waiting."

A "Call of the House" motion was called for and approved in a 76-4 vote. Afterward, the House doors were locked to prevent anyone from coming or going.

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Austin seats empty.Twitter

Once the Democrats return to Texas, they can be arrested and brought back to the Capitol.

Governor Greg Abbott said in a television interview: "They're quitters. That is not the way we do things."

While the headlines in Austin erupt about the missing Democrats, no one is covering the real issue, the voting rights legislation the Democrats are avoiding. In 17 states, Republicans have enacted bills to restrict voting access. Texas will be the 18th state if the vote passes. Republicans claim voter fraud and Democrats say they lack proof. And all issues are in limbo, like the power grid, transgender sports, border security, and abortion-inducing drugs.

The controversy is furthered by President Trump's claim the election was stolen from him. The latest restrictions and the ones under consideration in Texas are stronger:

“Our democracy works best when we believe that everybody should have free, fair and accessible elections,” Myrna Pérez, a longtime elections expert, told us (before Biden nominated her to a federal judgeship). “And while it may turn out that their self-interested anti-voter efforts may backfire, make no mistake: Our democracy is worse just because they tried.”

The Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that states have the right to restrict voting access.

Should lawmakers be required to attend the Special Session? Should they forfeit their salary and per diem if they do not attend? And what about how much money taxpayers are on the hook for? Should the runaway lawmakers be personally held accountable for the expenses?

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Austin, TX
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