Democrats stated that they decided to break quorum in order to block “dangerous legislation” from Texas Republicans that “would trample on Texans’ freedom to vote.”
Increased voting regulations included in the bills would require voter identification to use mail ballots and push back against election policies experimented with by local officials — most notably in Harris County — that were used in the past election in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, such as drive-through voting and soliciting mail ballot applications to individuals who do not request them.
Without enough Democrats present, the House will lack the two-thirds quorum it needs to conduct business.
Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) criticized the maneuver, saying it will “at risk state funding that will deny thousands of hard-working staff members and their families a paycheck, health benefits, and retirement investment.”
“The Texas House will use every available resource under the Texas Constitution and the unanimously-passed House Rules to secure a quorum to meaningfully debate and consider election integrity, bail reform, benefits for retired teachers, Child Protective Services reform, Article X funding, and the other important measures Gov. Abbott placed on the special session agenda,” said Phelan.
“The special session clock is ticking — I expect all Members to be present in our Capitol in order to immediately get to work on these issues.”
Under House rules, members can make a motion to “secure and maintain a quorum.” If 15 members second the motion, then missing members may “be sent for and arrested, wherever they may be found.”
In response to the move by Democrats, Rep. Mayes Middleton (R-Wallisville) filed a constitutional amendment to prohibit salaries for members while they are absent unexcused when a quorum is lacking and HB 249 to prohibit campaign fundraising during a special legislative session.
“All legislators were elected to show up for work. Unfortunately, the House Democrats have decided to abandon the job they were elected to do and quit on Texas. They should not continue to get paid,” said Middleton.
Other Republican lawmakers took to social media to criticize the quorum bust and pleas for campaign contributions that Democrats have made.
In response to former Congressman Beto O’Rourke asking for contributions to “make sure [the House Democrats breaking quorum] have the resources to stay in this fight for as long as it takes,” Rep. Matt Shaheen (R-Plano) quipped, “Yes please do.”
“Taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay for all of the Democrat’s alcohol,” said Shaheen, emphasizing a pack of Miller Lite that was seen on the charter bus with the lawmakers in one photo.
Other top lawmakers in the state also criticized the quorum bust.
“Texas Democrats’ decision to break a quorum of the Texas Legislature and abandon the Texas State Capitol inflicts harm on the very Texans who elected them to serve. As they fly across the country on cushy private planes, they leave undone issues that can help their districts and our state,” said Gov. Greg Abbott.
“The Democrats must put aside partisan political games and get back to the job they were elected to do. Their constituents must not be denied these important resources simply because their elected representative refused to show up to work.”
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who presides over the Senate, likewise criticized the House Democrats for their flight “to DC on a private jet with a case of Miller Lite,” and stated, “It’s my hope that Senate Dems report tomorrow to do what they were elected to do.”
Senate Republicans are planning on bringing SB 1 to the floor and passing it on Tuesday.
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Daniel Friend is a reporter for The Texan. He participated in a Great Books program at Azusa Pacific University and graduated in 2019 with a degree in Political Science. He has studied C.S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy and in his spare time you might find him writing his own novel partly inspired by the series.