Houston - At least 2 Texas Democratic lawmakers have returned to the state after spending more than a week in Washington D.C. protesting proposed voting laws.
In a press conference Wednesday, Rep. Chris Turner, the Chair of the Texas House Democratic Caucus, said he was surprised to hear Rep. Philip Cortez had flown back to Texas. Turner says he spoke with Cortez on the phone Tuesday.
"That was the first I [had heard] he left our group in Washington," said Cortez. "I talked to him today. I encouraged him to return to [Washington]."
"I was very surprised because there was no announcement, or notice given to us, the Texas House Democratic Caucus," said Rep. Shawn Thierry. "The person kind of left in the cover of night, if you will."
Representative Thierry is one of more than 50 Texas House Democrats still in Washington D.C. protesting proposed changes to voting laws in Texas.
"We’re very united," said Thierry. "We meet constantly during the day. The morale is still strong. We’re working around the clock. We’re going to stay the course."
"There has been a slow trickle of Democrats coming back," said Texas Governor Greg Abbott. "I’m committed to calling special session, after special session, after special session, every 30 days, until we get these items passed."
Texas Democrats are in D.C. protesting Texas Senate Bill 1 (SB 1) and House Bill 3 (HB 3). Republicans had initiated a special legislative session to vote on the proposals, among other items. However, the quorum has been put on pause after some Democratic lawmakers left the state to protest the voting bills they argue would suppress minority votes. The Democratic representatives have been in D.C. for more than one week.
SB 1 and HB 3 would end drive-thru voting, ban 24-hour voting, and require people to request mail-in ballots in order to receive them.
Although two Texas Democrats returned to the state this week, there still aren’t enough state representatives in Austin to resume the special legislative session.
"We now have 93," said Representative Briscoe Cain. "Seven more members to go, for the Texas House of Representatives to have a constitutional quorum so we can get back to work for the people."