Texas Democrats got a show of support Wednesday while in Washington, D.C. when a group of Texas Senators joined them in the nation's capital.
Wednesday is the third day the Texas House members have spent in Washington after leaving Austin Monday to deny a quorum and avoid voting on a controversial elections bill. Texas Senators, meanwhile, continue to pass bills on Gov. Greg Abbott's special session agenda. All are at risk of dying if the Democrats hold out through the duration of the session.
“We are in a country now where we have a rover on Mars, talking about sending a man, a person to the moon to live, yet, still we cannot make it more accessible for people to vote in the state of Texas,” said Sen. Royce West (D-Dallas, District 23).
Critics call the bill veiled voter suppression while supporters insist the bill is about security and fighting fraud.
House lawmakers, again boarded busses for meetings on Capitol Hill, lobbying for federal voting legislation that would overpower state laws.
“Our endgame is to pass federal protections to prevent what is happening in Texas,” said state Sen. Victoria Neave (D-Dallas, District 107).
Today, Texas Democrats met with several U.S. Senators, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN). But they won't be getting an audience with Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX).
“I have no interest in talking to people who are unwilling to do the job they've been elected to do. They need to go home and go back to work,“ said Cornyn, who on Wednesday called the walkout embarrassing and shameful.
We are told that 58 Democrats are not in Austin for session, denying the necessary numbers for the House to take any votes. We asked House Democratic Caucus Chair Rep. Chris Turner (D-Grand Prairie, District 101) if he was confident the group would stay together.
“I am. Our members are committed. They are strong. They are unified. They are determined to do all they can to see that we kill this bill this session and continue to press the case for federal action,” said Turner.
Turner again reiterated Wednesday that the walkout is being paid for by donations.
“Our caucus, and all of the caucuses, raise money except when we are session when we're obviously are not allowed to do so. We are able to raise money now and we are actively raising money to be able to support transportation, lodging, the necessities, while we are away from Texas," Turner said. "But certainly, yes, members are incurring costs out-of-pocket absolutely. So there is no doubt both things are happening."
Members receive per diem of $221 a day when in session. House Speaker Dade Phelan (R) is calling for those not in session to return the money upon receipt.
Before Phelan put out his statement, Turner was asked about the per diems and he said, “Those per diems are paid out at the end of the month, so that would be still several weeks away and I anticipate members are going to decline that."
At least one legislator, Rep. Michelle Beckley (D-Carrollton, District 65), issued a statement Wednesday saying any per diem received while not in Austin would be returned or refused.