Despite high hopes last November, Democrats remain in the minority in both Texas legislative chambers and their options are limited. If they stay out of state and decline a quorum until the special session ends at the end of the month, Mr. Abbott can simply call another. He is sure to call at least one more session later this year to pass new congressional and legislative maps and allocate billions of dollars in federal pandemic relief funding.
In addition, there is no indication that there are 50 Senate Democrats ready to pass voter protections on a simple majority vote, a move that would require weakening the filibuster. At least half a dozen Democratic senators, a group whose most vocal figures are Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, have expressed resistance to such a move.
The Texas Democrats’ escape follows days of internal deliberations over how aggressively to resist Republican voting proposals. While a group of young progressive lawmakers advocated leaving the state, the party leadership had been more cautious, pushing for a plan to force a series of votes on amendments to water down the bill.
“We are going to fight to kill the bill, we are going to use the procedure and the rulebook to make sure that a bad bill does not pass,” said state representative Rafael Anchia, chairman of the government. Mexican-American legislative caucus, says Friday. “The first approach is going to be to fight the bill head-on. “
The Republican voting proposals, among other provisions, would ban 24-hour voting and drive-thru voting; add new voter identification requirements for postal voting; increase criminal penalties for election workers who break the rules; and greatly expand the authority and autonomy of pro-election observers.
Most of the talk about quorum prevention has come from State House, which has a larger contingent of younger, more progressive Democrats than the Senate. At State House, it takes 55 of the 67 Democrats leaving the state to block a vote. In the Senate, it takes 11 Democrats out of 13.
Democrats’ reluctance to flee the state evaporated over the weekend as liberal activists, citizens of Texas and Beto O’Rourke, the former congressman who is the most popular figure in the State, testified in a hearing that began Saturday morning and lasted nearly 24 hours.