HOUSTON - More than 50 of the 67 Texas House Democrats left the state Monday for Washington, D.C. during the special legislative session. The Democratic exodus would deny the GOP the quorum, or minimum number of members, needed to pass that voting bill.
With less than 26 days left in the special session, some Democrats say they’re prepared to stay away until then.
State Representative Gene Wu was among the group that boarded flights Monday afternoon, in an attempt to block a sweeping GOP bill that would restrict voting.
"We started out this special session with promises that there would be compromises there, that there would be changes to the bill and that they would work with us. After a 24-hour hearing almost 500 witnesses testified overwhelmingly in opposition. Ten to one in opposition. They just voted it all out. All efforts to make things a little bit better, were rejected without question," said Wu.
Wu said he was not certain how long he would remain in Washington.
"This is actually really scary for a lot of us. We've just spent the last six months away from our families and not making money at home. This is the sacrifice that we're willing to make this is not just about politics. This is about the future of our state. This is about the future of our communities. If Black and brown and poor and immigrant communities no longer have a voice, they have their voices then shut, then they don't matter anymore," Wu continued.
The bill in question would ban drive-thru and 24-hour voting, add new ID requirements to absentee ballots, bolster partisan poll watchers, as well as prohibit local election officials from sending mail-in ballot applications unless requested by voters.
This isn't the first walk out. Less than a month ago, Democrats walked-out during the regular session to prevent a vote.
According to Rice University political analyst Mark Jones, the last time Democrats denied Republicans a quorum was in 2003 to block a redistricting plan.
"The Democrats are in a difficult position because Governor Abbott will call as many 30-day special sessions, as you want, between now and January of 2023," Jones said.
Jones believes this may not last long.
"We're likely to see Democrats cave sooner rather than later once they've made their political points. So once they put a spotlight on Texas which they're doing today. Once they maybe have extracted some concessions on the legislation and once, they have raised money from a new set of donors, they can tap again in 2022," Jones said.
In a response, Governor Greg Abbott is calling on his Democratic colleagues to come back to work.
"Your audience is paying for this junket trip that they’re paying to get away from Austin while they’re not here doing business. This is costing taxpayer money and even worse, costing damage to your community. We have important issues we want to get passed," Abbott said in an interview.
Texas Democrats say while in Washington, they hope to get Congress to pass a national voter reform bill that would override portions of this legislation.
The House is expected to reconvene Tuesday morning. However, with a significant portion of them away, they may not have the numbers to do business.