HOUSTON - As Republicans fumed at the Texas Capitol, the elopement of House Democrats to Washington D.C. continued for the third day driven by a commitment they claim to be expanding access to the ballot and the mission of stopping a GOP election reform bill they view as "suppressive."
"Governor Abbott and Republican Legislatures will stop at nothing, absolutely unequivocally nothing to strip Texans of their freedom to vote by continuing to perpetuate the big lie of voter fraud," said State Representative Ron Reynolds, a Missouri City Democrat.
"We are not going to allow Governor Abbott to corral and cabin us. We are here to fight," said State Representative Vikki Goodwin, a Democrat from Austin.
House Democrats have been joined, at least temporarily, by eight State Senators, including Houston's Carol Alvarado who says pandemic-driven experiments pioneered in Harris County shouldn't be outlawed, as Republicans propose, but instead, adopted statewide.
"Yes, the Drive-thru voting was new. Yes, 24-hour voting was new, and guess what? It worked," said Alvarado. "But maybe to some people, it worked too well."
Meantime, back in Austin, Republican Senator Bryan Hughes insisted the election security law he guided through the upper chamber actually expands voting hours for Texans while restoring shaken confidence in the process.
"Anyone who says there's no voter fraud in Texas is telling a very big lie. How much fraud is okay? None. How much suppression is okay? None," Hughes said. "That's why Senate Bill 1 makes it easy to vote and hard to cheat, and we will stay here for as long as it takes, and come back as many times as it takes to give these protections to every Texas voter."
But it was Houston State Senator Joan Huffman who dropped the hammer, placing direct blame on defecting Democrats for delaying approval of felony bond reform and enabling the further release of violent, repeat offenders responsible for more than 120 murders in Harris County alone.
"Layla Steele, a young mother holding her one-year-old child, shot multiple times," Huffman said. "The child [was] shot in the leg by an individual who she had a protective order against but was out on not one, not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, but seven felony warrants, felony bonds. Seven. Does that not horrify you? It certainly should. Whatever they are doing. I hope they think it's worth it. I hope they think it's worth the lives that are being cost."
State Representative Chris Turner, Chairman of the House Democratic caucus told reporters his members were prepared to remain out of state until the special session expires. He also confirmed the lawmakers are soliciting contributions to cover their expenses while in Washington D.C.