Republicans in the Texas State House voted Tuesday to arrest the runaway Democrats who fled to Washington D.C. to break the quorum and block the passage of Governor Greg Abbott’s voting rights bills.
“Members, a sergeant-at-arms and any officer appointed by him are directed to send for all absentees whose attendance is not excused for the purpose of securing and maintaining their attendance under warrant of arrest if necessary,” Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan announced from the State House floor.
Texas Democrats maintain that they aren’t afraid of Governor Abbott’s threats to arrest them for fleeing the state to break a quorum and avoid voting on Republicans ‘ election legislation.
During a press conference in front of the Capitol on Tuesday morning, the large group broke out into song with a Civil Rights-era gospel, and getting the words wrong in claiming ‘we will overcome’ after arriving in D.C. on a pair of jets that cost them $100,000 to charter.
‘I’m not worried about the threat of being arrested,’ Texas State Representative Jasmine Crockett told CNN the morning after arriving in D.C.
‘I don’t worry probably because I know the law,’ she continued. ‘I’ve not committed a crime, so I can’t get arrested.’
Trey Martinez Fischer, a fellow Democratic member of the Texas State House, said Tuesday that the group of around 60 lawmakers plan to wait out the full 30-day legislative session in Washington D.C.
‘This is the risk that we take to stand up for democracy,’ Martinez Fisher told CNN when asked about the potential of Abbott sending law enforcement after them.
The group is staying at the Washington Plaza Hotel in Northwest D.C., where rooms start at $199 per night. The hotel features a luxury outdoor pool and lounge surrounded by privacy greenery and trees.
The lawmakers left their hotel on Tuesday morning in buses headed for the Capitol, where they held a quick press conference outside the building.
Martinez Fischer said they are working on setting up meetings on Capitol Hill after fleeing Texas on Monday and breaking quorum in order to block Republican-proposed voting rights laws from passing. He said nothing is set in stone yet.
A quorum is the minimum number of members needed to conduct legislative proceedings and assure they are valid. In the case of Texas, two-thirds of its House members are needed to reach a quorum, which is 100 people.
The Texas House of Representatives is controlled by Republicans with a 83-67 majority. By 58 of the 67 Democrats fleeing the state, only a maximum of 92 can be present, meaning the minority was able to ‘break the quorum.’
The large group of Texas Democratic lawmakers who fled their state on Monday to avoid voting on Republicans’ election legislation held a press conference outside the Capitol on Tuesday morning. The lawmakers broke out in gospel song ‘We Shall Overcome’
Texas Democrats exit the $200-a-night Washington Plaza hotel on Tuesday morning to board coach buses en route to the Capitol
The Washington Plaza is located in Northwest Washington, D.C. The cost of rooms on Tuesday night starts at $199
Texas state Rep. Jasmine Crockett said Tuesday she is not afraid of Governor Abbott’s threat to arrest Democrats who fled the state to block Republicans’ latest voting legislation
Fellow Texas State Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer told CNN that the group of runaways are willing to stay in D.C. for the full 30-day legislative session and risk arrest to break the quorum. ‘This is the risk that we take to stand up for democracy,’ he said
The Texas State House adjourned on Tuesday morning. The present members are moving forward with deciding whether to arrest members who fled the state and broke quorum
“We are elected by the constituents to be their voice … We have to have the courage, we have to have conviction, and sometimes a little bit of defiance,” Texas House Democrat Trey Martinez Fischer says on leaving the state to block Republicans from passing voting restrictions. pic.twitter.com/AJykfcjbdS
— New Day (@NewDay) July 13, 2021
Those remaining in the Texas State House, a vast majority Republicans, brought up consideration Tuesday on arresting their colleagues after two private jets – chartered by the state Democrats at a total cost of $100,000 – touched down in Washington D.C. from Austin on Monday carrying 58 lawmakers from Texas.
Meanwhile, Texas state senators are expected to move on with voting on the proposed election legislation on Tuesday.
To permanently block the two voting bills, the Texas House Democrats would have to stay away through the end of the special legislative session, which can last as many as 30 days.
The session ends on August 7, meaning there are 26 days left.
Abbott, however, can call special session after special session until a quorum is reached.
During the press conference outside the Capitol Tuesday morning the lawmakers said they are just ‘buying time’ with their stunt.
At one point, the group began belting out ‘We Shall Overcome’, a gospel song that became a protest anthem of the American civil rights movement. They got the lyrics wrong, however, and sang ‘we will overcome’ instead of ‘shall.’
‘Quit criminalizing elections,’ Martinez Fisher demanded in his New Day interview the morning after arriving on a private jet in D.C. He claimed one of the main points Democrats are fighting in the GOP voting bill in Texas is allowing poll watchers because it’s ‘voter intimidation.’
‘You’ll be gone for a month, it sounds like,’ CNN morning host Brianna Keilar said.
Martinez Fisher replied: ‘If that’s what it takes.’
The Texas lawmaker assured that the trip to the nation’s capital was completely privately funded and did not rely on taxpayer dollars. Some also flew on commercial flights – like Crockett, who said she flew Southwest to get from Texas to Washington.
Local Democratic lawmakers from Texas wait outside their hotel in Washington for a bus to bring them to Capitol Hill as they prepare to meet with federal-level lawmakers about voting rights legislation
Hydrate: A member brings water onto the bus as Texas Democrats prepare to shuttle over to the Capitol on July 13, 2021
The Washington Plaza Hotel, where the lawmakers are staying, includes an outdoor pool surrounded by trees for privacy
The rooms start at around $200 per night – and Texas Democrats claim they are footing their bill from campaign accounts and fundraising efforts
He posted a video of himself from the tarmac on Monday asking for donations to his campaign to help fund the trip – including travel and accommodation costs.
‘We’re going to break quorum. I can’t do this alone, I need your help. I don’t know how long I’m going to be gone,’ he said in a self-style video before asking for donations to his campaign.
The state lawmaker told CNN that the hotel costs Tuesday night will be paid for directly out of his campaign account.
Members of the Texas House of Representatives make only $7,500 per year.
Martinez Fischer insisted that chartering a private plane instead of flying commercially was necessary because ‘everybody wants to see’ us, so we ‘need to fly privately.’
Dan Crenshaw, who represents Texas’ 2nd congressional district in the U.S. House, called the group ‘pathetic’ and ‘delinquent children’ on Monday evening.
‘Hard to imagine a more delusional group of people – thinking that lying about these bills, hopping on a chartered flight, sipping beer, and skipping work is ‘sacrifice,’ he tweeted.
The Republican congressman added: ‘You guys are pathetic. Totally pathetic.’
‘These delinquents are doing this to kill a bill that does things like make voting hours across counties the same,’ he followed up in another tweet. ‘There isn’t a single thing in these bills that is ‘voter suppression.’ This a (sic) giant charade. Texans should be furious, and vote all of these children out of office.’
Abbott said on Monday night the state Democrats will be arrested upon their return to Texas.
In a selfie video from the tarmac on Monday, Martinez Fischer assured the coach buses, two private jets chartered from Austin to D.C. and hotel accommodations are all privately funded and not taken from taxpayer dollar
He also linked to his campaign fundraising page on Twitter and urge supporters to donate to help fund Democrats breaking a quorum in Texas. He said on the fundraising page: ‘We don’t know how long it’s going to take to beat back Republican efforts to suppress the vote’
The governor’s office did not immediately respond to DailyMail.com when asked whether he plans to send law enforcement after the members as they hunker down in Washington.
Governor Abbott described the lawmakers as ‘quitters’ who were ‘un-Texan’ in running from a fight.
The two bills Democrats sought to avoid a vote on would add new identification requirements for mail-in voting, ban certain early voting options and create new criminal penalties for breaking election code, while empowering partisan poll watchers.
The measures would ban several election programs implemented last year to help people vote during the coronavirus pandemic, including drive-through voting and 24-hour and late-night voting.
Voting rights advocates noted that voters of color used these programs disproportionately.
‘That’s why they fled the state,’ Abbott told Fox News host Laura Ingraham. ‘Once they step back into the state of Texas, they will be arrested and brought to the Texas capital and we will be conducting business.’
Governor Greg Abbott said Monday that the Democrats who fled Texas to avoid voting on an election bill would be arrested when they return to the state
Congressman Dan Crenshaw, who represents Texas’ 2nd district in the U.S. House, called the group ‘pathetic’, ‘delinquints’ and ‘children’ in tweets on Monday
The House Democrats are seen Monday night staging a news conference on the tarmac at Dulles airport in Washington D.C.
At least 58 Democrats left Austin to avoid the vote on two election bills, touching down in Washington D.C. on Monday evening in two private jets (pictured)
Can they be arrested?
Texas House rules state that absent legislators can be arrested by the sergeant-at-arms or somebody appointed by the sergeant-at-arms and returned to the House floor.
The move is known as ‘a call of the House’, which allows law enforcement to track down lawmakers who have already fled the chamber.
Because of this rule, Texas Democrats looking to break quorum traveled out of state, where Texas officers lack jurisdiction.
An order to arrest House members must be voted on by a majority of lawmakers present after quorum has been broken.
They would be arrested under a procedure known as ‘a call of the House’, which allows law enforcement to track down lawmakers who have already fled the chamber.
Dustin Burrows, chair of the House calendar committee, told The Texas Tribune: ‘It’s a sad commentary that we may have to utilize a procedural rule to try and force most of the Democrats to show up to do the job they were elected to do.’
He said that ‘unfortunately, the siren call of social media fame and fundraising’ had lured Democrats to D.C.
Abbott was equally scathing of the runaway Democrats.
‘Isn’t that the most un-Texan thing you have ever heard? Texans running from a fight?’ he said.
‘They are quitters. It’s like during a football game or baseball game taking their equipment when they are way behind and just leaving the field.
‘That is not the way that Texans do things.’
The Democrats’ departure paralyzed the Texas state house as the legislature requires a quorum of two-thirds of lawmakers be present to conduct business.
Abbott said that their behavior was anti-democratic, noting: ‘They are leaving and abandoning their right to vote.’
Yet Abbott vowed that he would ‘continue calling special session after special session’ to force the runaways to ‘step up to vote.’
The group of Democratic lawmakers posed for a photo before fleeing so they could break the quorum and stop the Republicans from passing voters laws they claim are restrictive
The coach with the Texas Democrats (right) pulls into the parking lot of Austin-Bergstrom International Airport to catch one of the private jets (left) to Washington D.C.
Martinez Fischer said he was prepared to wait-out multiple 30-day sessions, telling CNN he was in it for the long haul.
‘They are trying to take away our right to vote and, and we’re not going to put up with it. We are going to fight,’ he said.
The jets were paid for by the House Democratic caucus, they said – but they have begun fundraising to allow them to stay in D.C.
‘They are still getting taxpayer-based money and their staffs are still getting taxpayer-based money,’ said Abbott.
‘So they are still living off of the government dime even while on this trip.
‘All the while, they are doing fund-raising projects online, trying to raise money for this.’
He said it was ‘hypocrisy’ to try ‘using a filibuster to flee the state of Texas to plead with the president to do away with the filibuster in Washington, D.C.’
Abbott said that they were mistaken in arguing that the new bills would restrict voting. He said that Texas was actually increasing voting hours, while removing other ways of voting.
‘What this Texas law does doesn’t hinder anybody’s abilities to vote,’ he said.
‘Interestingly, when Texas is seeking to do is add additional hours to vote.
Texas has 12 days of early voting and hours of which will be expanded, and will ‘ensure that hours are expended on election day also – so their entire thesis is completely wrong.’
He repeated his argument that it was easier to vote in Texas than in Joe Biden’s home state of Delaware, where there is no early voting.
‘If anybody wants to talk about voter suppression, they should be talking about Delaware, not Texas,’ he said.
Earlier on Monday, Abbott issued a statement demanding the Democrats show up to work and ‘put aside partisan political games and get back to the job they were elected to do.’
He added: ‘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.’
The Democrats, in a statement, said they were acting to prevent ‘dangerous’ legislation.
One of the Democrats from the state legislature raises her hands in the air as she follows her colleagues onto the private jet
Kamala Harris, the vice president, praised them for their ‘extraordinary courage and commitment’ for American voter rights.
‘I applaud them standing for the rights of all Americans, and all Texans to express their voice through their vote, unencumbered,’ she said.
‘I do believe that fighting for the right to vote is as American as apple pie,’ she said.
The Texas state House Democratic caucus said in a statement: ‘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.
‘We are now taking flight 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,’ they added.
Julie Johnson, a Democrat in the Texas House of Representatives, posted a selfie on a coach bus that drove a group of lawmakers to the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. Featured in the image was a case of Miller Lite beer.
Texas State Rep. Julie Johnson posted a selfie or her and other Democratic lawmakers in a coach bus as they fled the state on private jets for Washington D.C. to prevent Texas Republicans from passing voting integrity legislation
Featured in the image posted to Twitter is a case of Miller Lite beer occupying a seat on the bus
‘When it comes to protecting our right to vote, all cards are on the table,’ Johnson tweeted.
‘We broke #quorum again today because the Gov & #txlege Repubs chose to bully Texans out of our constitutional rights instead of finding solutions to problems that really exist.’
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday it was ‘certainly’ possible that some administration officials would meet with the runaway Democrats.
She called the new voting laws ‘the worst challenge to our democracy since the Civil War.’
The state’s Democrats already staged one successful walkout to defeat the election legislation prioritized by Abbott.
They quietly left the state house floor in the final minutes of the regular legislative session that ended in May, breaking quorum and forcing Republicans to adjourn without passing the measure.
Abbott called the state legislature back for a special session to deal with the two measures he wants passed.
Senate Republicans in Washington blocked Democrats nation-wide voting rights bill earlier this summer.
As of June 21, 17 states enacted 28 new laws that restrict access to the vote this year alone, according to the Brenner Center for Justice.
TEXAS’ VOTING RIGHTS BILLS: WHAT’S IN THEM AND WHY THE DEMOCRATS THINK THEY ‘RESTRICT’ ELECTIONS
- The bills – House Bill 3 and Senate Bill 1 – were filed last week during a special legislative session called by Texas Governor Greg Abbott.
- The proposed legislation creates harsher criminal penalties for people who help voters at the polls or those planning to vote by mail.
- The bills, if passed, would be a ban on 24-hour voting. Instead, there would be a new voting window from 6am to 10pm on election day.
- Rules would require residents to fill out paperwork if you are taking someone who is not a relative to vote in person.
- Regulations would require someone to exit their car during curbside voting.
- Bills would mean voters would have to provide their drivers license or the last four digits of their social security number to cast a ballot.
- New rules would stop local election officials from sending out mail-in ballots to those who haven’t requested them.
- Drive-in voting would be banned.
- Expands what partisan poll watchers can observe during counts.
- Prohibits poll watchers from being removed for violating election laws.
- Both bills would increase early voting from eight to nine hours.
- Also lowers the population threshold required for counties to provide at least 12 hours of early voting each weekday of the second week of early voting.
- Protects the legitimacy of elections and avoids fraud, according to Republicans.
Democrats argue that:
- The measures included in the bills would mainly stop minority communities and shift workers from voting because of the restricted hours.
- The regulations in the bills would make it harder to control disruptive partisan poll watchers.
- Would make it easier for losing candidates to try and overturn election results and harass winning candidates with court battles and recounts.
- Democrats also claim the provisions do nothing to make elections more secure in Texas.
- Insists the proposed legislation would help further the claims of election fraud Donald Trump has made in the aftermath of the 2020 election.
- Argue that restricted voting hours on a Sunday would have impacted the ability of black churchgoers, also known as ‘souls of the polls’, to cast their ballots.
- They instead want the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act to be passed by Congress to address elections on a federal level.
- But Republicans insist that this is a power grab and would represent a ‘federal takeover’ of elections
White House press secretary Jen Psaki (left) called the new voting laws ‘the worst challenge to our democracy since the Civil War’ during her briefing Monday. Texas’ Republican Governor Greg Abbott (right) demanded the Democrats show up to work and ‘put aside partisan political games and get back to the job they were elected to do’
The Republican-led states passed the measures after Biden’s victory in the 2020 election after former President Donald Trump falsely claimed he won and was the victim of voter fraud.
President Joe Biden will travel to Philadelphia on Tuesday to talk about voting rights. Psaki hinted he may attack Trump.
‘He will redouble his commitment to using every tool at his disposal to continue to fight to protect the fundamental right of Americans to vote against the onslaught of voter suppression laws based on a dangerous and discredited conspiracy theory that culminated in assault on our Capitol,’ she said.
She then referred to the ‘big lie’ – a term Democrats have used to refer to the false election claims made by Trump and some other Republicans. The phrase is a dig at Trump, who calls Biden’s election victory ‘The Big Lie.’
‘He’ll call out the greatest irony of ‘the big lie’ – that no election in our history has met such a high standard with over 80 judges, including those appointed by his predecessor, throwing out all challenges,’ Psaki said.
‘He’ll also decry efforts to strip the right to vote as authoritarian and anti American and stand up against the notion that politicians should be allowed to choose their voters.’
With Biden pushing the issue in Philadelphia, the birthplace of democracy, and Texas Democrats marching around Washington, the pressure will be on Republicans.