What you need to know about Democrats’ walkout in Austin
AUSTIN, Texas – Texas state Democrats fled Austin on Monday for Washington as they tried to block the Republican Party’s radical election overhaul bill that would make it more difficult to vote in the state.
Democrats used a similar plan before scuttling an earlier version of the bill on the last day of the May legislative session.
Their goal is to achieve a similar result to erase the 30-day special section called by Governor Greg Abbott.
Here’s a brief explanation of the Democrats’ goals – short term and long term.
THE DEMOCRATS ‘PLAN
Democrats are adopting this bold political ploy for several reasons. Initially, they aim to deprive the Texas legislature of a quorum – the minimum number of representatives that must be in place for the government to be operational.
Without this number, the Texas legislature cannot vote on any proposal. It would also limit the ability of Republicans to vote on any of their other bills, such as anti-racism education in US history, transgender athletics, or abortion. It effectively throws a key in all votes.
And a larger philosophical plan has already been realized. He gave Democrats a statewide platform on a national story about Republicans pushing to tighten voting laws across the state. It is no coincidence that Vice President Kamala Harris gave a speech Monday afternoon shortly after the delegation fled Austin. Or that President Joe Biden will make similar remarks on voting rights later today.
HAS IT EVER Tried?
Leaving the state has a long tradition in Texas politics.
The “Killer Bees” fled to Oklahoma in May 1979, hiding away from the site to prevent the 31-member Senate from reaching quorum on two bills: an early date for a presidential primary in Texas and a bill. of the law on administrative fees for primary elections. Among them was the late political leader of Corpus Christi, Carlos Truan.
And in 2003, 50 lawmakers from the Democratic state of Texas again left for Oklahoma to block a Republican redistribution proposal that would have effectively cost Democrats five seats in the House of Representatives.
It has happened in other states more recently as well. In 2011, Wisconsin Democrats left for Illinois to target a Republican bill to stamp out workers’ unions from the government. That same year, Democrats in Indiana used similar tactics to end a right to work bill.
And Republicans have used it too. Eleven Oregon GOP lawmakers fled to Idaho in 2019, bypassing a Democratic bill to fight climate change.
HAS IT EVER WORKED?
Not very often. In 2003, then Republican Governor of Texas Rick Perry called a special session. The insurgent Democrats fled to New Mexico, but eventually returned to Austin and adopted a redistribution plan. Wisconsin Democrats have been unable to quell the GOP’s bill in the state that would strip public sector unions of collective bargaining rights – Republicans have changed the measure so that it does not no quorum needed to be approved – and the fugitive group returned to Madison after three weeks in Illinois. And Republicans in Indiana ultimately withdrew the state’s right to work bills. And they passed them the following year without a walkout.
The Oregon Republicans have succeeded. Democrats ultimately withdrew their climate bill, but passage was not guaranteed even before Republicans left the state to hide in Idaho.
The Texas Democrats won the first round of their showdown against the Republicans last month. When Abbott-led Republicans attempted to push through a last-minute revised election bill, Democrats walked out and walked to a church at the end of the session and the bill died. But Abbott reconvened the meeting on the voting bill in the month-long special session. It takes a lot longer to try to scuttle.
An extended stay would be much more difficult to achieve today. They could be threatened with losing their statutory salary or they could be sued. Abbott has already tied up their paycheck.
And Abbott could continue to call special sessions.
Upon arriving in Washington, Democrats from Texas said they were prepared to stay out of state until the special session was over. But they aim to get Congress to approve federal law before then, replacing Abbott’s stock.
WHY GO TO WASHINGTON?
These trips in the past have usually gone to neighboring states. But a trip to the nation’s capital offers a different strategy.
On his way to Washington, he is drawing national attention to their grievances by alerting the national political media and Democratic leaders that they hope they will be friendly in helping their cause and stepping up national pressure for federal action on the vote.
But the Democrats’ tight balance of power in Washington might make it more difficult to achieve this time around.
IS IT LEGAL?
Not really. State legislators are elected with the idea of representing voters by attending legislative sessions. But walkouts in the past have been strategically used as a way for a minority party to end political action.
And as history has proven, it can sometimes work while spawning a lot of negative feelings in the audience along the way.