WASHINGTON (Nexstar) — More than 50 Texas House Democrats are in the nation’s capitol Tuesday in an extraordinary effort to block Republicans from enacting new voting restrictions.
The group of lawmakers said they plan to remain out of state until after the special legislative session ends on Aug. 6.
Texas law requires at least two-thirds of lawmakers to be present during a legislative session, so the absence of more than 50 state Democrats prevents any business from being done.
“We are not here smiling, we are not here spiking the ball,” said State Rep. Rafael Anchia (D-Dallas).
“We don’t want to be here. I would much rather be in Texas,” said State Rep. Alex Dominguez (D-Brownsville).
State Rep. Jasmine Crockett (D-Dallas) said coming to Washington, D.C. was the only way to stop Republicans in Texas from pushing through bills she said will make it harder for Texans to vote.
“They know we are going to vote it down, but they know it is going to pass anyways,” said Crockett.
Crockett said the two bills add new identification requirements for mail-in voting, ban some early-voting options and create new criminal penalties for breaking election code, while empowering partisan poll watchers.
“They’re standing up, and they’re doing the right thing,” said Texas Democratic Congressmen Marc Veasey (D-Fort Worth).
Veasey and U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Austin) welcomed the delegation, but the state’s Republican Sen. John Cornyn called the move a political stunt.
“House Democrats abandoned the state and the millions of Texans they represent,” Cornyn said.
On Tuesday in the Texas House chamber, the Republican majority voted to send law enforcement to arrest the Democrats who fled the state. State Democrats said that’s why they’re are turning to Washington for help.
“We wanted them to see how extreme they would go in Texas. This is the worst. Why are you forcing people into the chambers to vote?” said Crockett.
Many Democrats said they plan to stay in D.C. and meet with members on Capitol Hill and see what the federal government can be doing to protect voter rights.
On Tuesday, they met with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Vice President Kamala Harris.