AUSTIN, TEXAS–Truthfully, they were pretty much celebrating on their way to Washington. So, what are the Dems up to? Pretty easy, really: the minority is attempting to impose their will on the majority. So much for Democracy.
First, what are we all fussing about? Basically, this is a revamp of voting laws in an effort to stop voter fraud.
Here’s a run-down: House Bill 3 and Senate Bill 1
A similar move by Democrats stomped an earlier version of the bill last May, and lawmakers are hoping for a successful run during the 30-day special session called by the state’s Republican governor, Greg Abbott.
It appears that Texas Democrats have two objectives:
They hope to deprive the Legislature of the minimum number of representatives who have to be present for the body to operate known as a quorum. Without a quorum, the Legislature can’t vote on the voting proposal. In fact, without the minimum required number of rumps in seats the Texas Legislature can’t vote on ANYTHING. A Legislative form of Guillain-Barre syndrome that leaves the body useless (temporarily with any luck).
They appear to be drawing attention to the Republican push to tighten Texas voting laws. Many Democrats in Congress have hoped their own sweeping elections bill that liberalizes voting laws nationwide could counter pushes in the opposite direction in Texas and several GOP-controlled states. Texas state Democratic lawmakers have been pleading for that bill’s passage in Washington for weeks. Congressional Democrats have resisted any change to Senate filibuster rules to overcome GOP opposition in that chamber and allow it to pass with just 50 votes-it would seem that this could also be used against them as well, such as when the new Child Tax credit bill comes up.
A minority party walking out of state legislatures to block a bill’s passage is rare but has plenty of precedent.
One occurred in Texas in 2003, when 50 Democratic state lawmakers ran to Oklahoma to block a Republican redistricting proposal that looked like it would cost Democrats five seats in the House of Representatives.
Eight years later Wisconsin Democrats scampered to Illinois to stop a Republican bill targeting government workers’ unions. Indiana Democrats took a leaf out of that particular book that year to block a right-to-work bill there.
But the Republicans have tried it, too. In 2019, 11 GOP Oregon legislators fled to Idaho, blocking a Democratic bill fighting climate change.
In all cases these a totally legal maneuverings that absolutely undermine and destroy any sense of Democracy. No need to worry about what the majority thinks if you can find a way to not let them speak.
Normally this does not work partially because they have to come home sometime. In 2003, Texas’ then-Republican governor, Rick Perry, called a special session. Democrats ran to New Mexico, but the redistricting plan passed, eventually, after everyone finally came back home.
And it should be noted that Wisconsin Democrats were also unable to stop a GOP bill stripping public-sector unions of collective bargaining rights after Republicans amended the measure so it didn’t need a quorum to pass.
After three weeks in Illinois the “fugitives” returned with egg on their faces. In Indiana, Republicans eventually withdrew the right-to-work bills, only to pass them the following year. Letting go to be a better hold, as it were.
Oregon is confusing, as the climate bill was not guaranteed passage even before the GOP flight to Idaho. Democrats eventually withdrew it.
Democrats won the first round easily with their walkout last month. Republicans who control the legislature tried to rush a revised elections bill through at the final hour, but Democrats walked out causing the bill to die when the session ended.
Abbott had the presence of mind to call them back last week for a special session-and this one lasts a month.
Running the clock out for an entire month is going to be quite a bit harder-but only because lawmakers with families to feed and mortgages to pay can only be self-righteous for so long.
Extended vacations strain household budgets and trash any goodwill with voters. They can lose their state legislative pay or even be sued, as Oregon’s Democratic governor threatened to do to the absent GOP lawmakers.
It should be noted for ALL lawmakers that beliefs and morals are subject to being trash-canned when the old personal checks start bouncing.
Abbott has already docked lawmakers’ pay and could continue to call special sessions until Democrats knock it off and do their jobs.
Now the news does have a silver lining that will warm our hearts:
“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,” Republican Gov. Greg Abbott says.
In Texas House rules state that members absent during a quorum call can “be sent for and arrested” by a majority vote of those present. The House sergeant-at-arms is empowered to carry this out.
Now keep in mind that if any of US broke the law to further our own beliefs we would end up in jail. If any of the great unwashed were to dare to refuse to go to work because we disagreed with our bosses, our pay would be far more than “docked”. If you or me made a public promise to uphold our office, and then didn’t we’d be out on the street before the announcement was even finished.
These guys are going to get a temporary pay cut and then head back to their cushy jobs with the nice offices.
BUT WHY WASHINGTON, OF ALL PLACES? State lawmakers usually run to other states to avoid the police at home- who can be empowered to round up the AWOL lawmakers and force them to fulfill their legal duty to be present for the legislative session.
Texas Democrats didn’t have to travel out of state last May because they only needed to clog up the statehouse floor for a couple of hours to kill the bill before the midnight deadline. But they have off the floor for far longer this time.
The decision to fly to Washington backs up the supposition of the Democrats’ secondary goal of winning attention. The move will put them in front of the national media and Democratic supporters (Anti-Trumpsters) so they can increase their push for federal action on voting.
And how is this support likely to manifest?
From NPR: The latest bills in Texas include new identification requirements for people voting by mail and prohibit local election officials from sending a vote-by-mail application to someone who hasn’t requested one.
They also ban drive-through voting and extended hours during early voting. Republicans in the state argue that these innovations — which were mostly used by Houston officials during the pandemic — opened the door to voter fraud.
James Slattery, a senior staff attorney with the Texas Civil Rights Project, said voters of color and shift workers benefited the most from these methods of voting last year.
“And so you can consider the bans on those forms of voting to be a direct attack on voters of color in particular,” he said.
Ahh, back to the old, tired “Anything that you do to reduce voter fraud is only because of racism.”
Luckily, this isn’t really legal as state lawmakers are generally required to attend their legislative sessions. Pretty sure that Texas Democrats will be wailing for Democrats in Washington to end the filibuster, at least for election bills written in their favor.
Sadly, walkouts have been used by both sides almost like the filibuster in the U.S. Senate — as a way for a minority to exercise control and to grind things to a halt.
The brakes almost always win over the engine-with the end result being a lot of noise and smoke, with no movement whatsoever.
I am getting extremely tired of De-MOCK-racy.
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