87th LegislatureState HouseState SenateTexas Democrats to Flee the State to Break Quorum, Prevent Passage of GOP Special Session Items

Democrats are attempting to block election reform legislation once again during the special session by breaking quorum.
and July 12, 2021
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To break quorum and prevent action on special session items such as election reform, social media censorship, and a prohibition on biological males participating in female sports, 58 House Democrats are preparing to leave the state — to Washington, D.C.

“Today, Texas House Democrats stand united in our decision to break quorum and refuse to let the Republican-led legislature force through dangerous legislation that would trample on Texans’ freedom to vote,” said members of the House Democratic Caucus in a press release.

“We are now taking the fight to our nation’s Capitol. We are living on borrowed time in Texas. We need Congress to act now to pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act to protect Texans — and all Americans — from the Trump Republicans’ nationwide war on democracy.”

The spectacle is a replay of the 87th regular session’s final night during which much of the same group walked out of the House chamber to kill the GOP’s election reform bill. Afterward, Governor Greg Abbott declared he would call a special session to take up that bill and other legislation that floundered. 

He then later vetoed Article X of the state budget which dictates funding for the legislature and adjacent agencies which would become effective on September 1.

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The list of 11 items identified by Abbott for this July special session alarmed Democrats for its inclusion of multiple conservative priorities. 

House Democratic Caucus chair, Rep. Chris Turner (D-Grand Prairie), said at the time, “The governor’s agenda for the special session shows he is more concerned with pandering to die-hard Trump supporters and right-wing extremists than he is with serving everyday Texans. Abbott’s agenda proves one thing: he is clearly panicked about his upcoming primary election.”

The group then threatened frequently to break quorum again, saying that “all options are on the table.”

House Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) echoed that threat, himself saying “all options are on the table” to prevent a quorum from being broken.

Under House rules, members can make a motion to “secure and maintain a quorum.” If 15 members second the motion, the doors to the chamber can be locked and absentees may “be sent for and arrested, wherever they may be found.”

Last week, state Rep. Tony Tinderholt (R-Arlington) proposed a House rules change that would punish members who break quorum by stripping them of their committee roles and seniority benefits.

The Texas House is set to convene Tuesday at 10:00 a.m., the first opportunity it’d have to command a quorum be restored.

Democrats in the Texas Senate could attempt to execute a similar quorum bust, as two-thirds of the members must be present for a quorum and over a third of the members in the upper chamber are Democrats.

A quorum of senators were present when Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick gaveled in the Senate on Monday morning.

However, later when the Senate Committee on Health and Human Services met for a hearing on several transgender sports bills, the three Democratic members on the committee were absent.

The hearing proceeded with a quorum of six senators present, and at least one Democratic senator — Sen. John Whitmire (D-Houston), who is not a member of the committee but performs procedural duties for the chamber as the “Dean of the Senate” — appeared at the hearing.

Governor Greg Abbott’s office did not immediately reply to a request for comment, but he has repeatedly stated that there will be “no pay for those who abandon their responsibilities.”

Update: This article was updated to include a statement from the House Democratic Caucus.

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Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson is an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.