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Texas governor says he'll punish Democrats who left the state to block voting restrictions

Dozens of Democratic state representatives left Texas for Washington, D.C., in an effort to both block a GOP voter suppression bill, as well as convince Congress to pass voting rights legislation.

By Emily Singer - July 13, 2021
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Texas GOP Gov. Greg Abbott

Texas GOP Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday threatened to arrest the dozens of Democratic state lawmakers who left the state in an effort to block a voter suppression bill Republicans are seeking to pass, accusing the lawmakers of failing to do their job.

“As soon as they come back in the state of Texas, they will be arrested, they will be cabined inside the Texas Capitol until they get their job done,” Abbott told local television station KVUE on Monday. “Everybody who has a job must show up to do that job, just like your viewers on watching right now. State representatives have that same responsibility.”

The Democratic lawmakers left on Monday for Washington, D.C., where they said they will stay until the special session Abbott called wraps up on Aug. 7. Abbott called the session in order to pass a number of right-wing bills, including the voting restrictions bill, a bill targeting transgender youth, and a bill that would bring more abortion restrictions in the state.

By leaving the state, the Democratic lawmakers are denying Republicans a quorum, or enough lawmakers in the chamber to pass laws.

The lawmakers are currently in the District of Columbia, where they plan to put pressure on Congress to pass voting rights legislation that would protect against the voter suppression laws like the one Texas Republicans are trying to enact.

“Protecting the right to vote of every American goes to the foundation of our country and all it stands for. It takes extraordinary measures to secure your voting rights as many people bled and died for those rights. Pass John Lewis Act now!” Democratic state Rep. Armando Walle tweeted on Monday, along with a photo of the Democratic representatives who were leaving the state.

Upon their arrival in Washington, D.C., the lawmakers held a news conference, where they said they will remain out of state until the session ends and use that entire time to persuade Congress to pass federal voter protection laws.

For now, Abbott cannot send Texas state troopers to arrest the lawmakers, as they do not have jurisdiction out of state, local Texas television station KENS5 reported.

But Abbott condemned the Democrats’ actions, accusing them in a statement of “inflict[ing] harm on the very Texans who elected them to serve.”

Abbott claimed that the special session would put Texas “on a path to prosperity.”

The majority of the legislation he’s pushing for focuses on culture war issues. Abbott wants the Legislature to pass a law that bans teachers from teaching critical race theory, for example. The subject is not something that is currently being taught to children in the state, but it has become a focal point for the GOP this year, as they try to gin up their base ahead of the 2022 midterm elections.

Other legislation he wants to be enacted includes a ban on transgender youth playing on sports teams of their gender, restrictions on social media companies, and a ban on people from receiving “abortion-inducing drugs by mail or delivery service.”

Not included in his special session agenda is legislation to help fix the state’s struggling power grid, which left Texans freezing in their homes earlier this year, as well as going without power during a recent heatwave.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.


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