AUSTIN, Texas — The latest special session began Saturday in familiar fashion: without enough Democrats at the Capitol for the GOP-led House to conduct any business, leaving the fate of the contentious elections bill and the rest of Gov. Greg Abbott’s agenda in limbo.
Their absence heightens the standoff over an elections bill that Republicans say makes it harder to cheat, but Democrats warn would suppress votes, especially those of Black and Latino Texans.
Rep. Jasmine Crockett, D-Dallas, said a good majority of House Democrats are still in Washington, D.C., lobbying Congress to pass federal voting rights legislation.
“We want to continue to apply pressure,” she said.
Democrats blocked passage of the GOP elections bill twice already, by staging a walkout at the end of the regular session and then fleeing the state in the first special session, which ended on Friday.
Abbott swiftly called another 30-day special session for Saturday and pledged to keep reconvening lawmakers in Austin until his agenda is passed. In addition to the elections bill, Abbott is asking legislators to take up 16 other items that include overhauling the state’s bail bond system, restricting abortion inducing drugs and regulating the sports teams transgender students can play on.
Generally, the elections legislation seeks to ban 24-hour and drive-through voting, extend protections to partisan poll watchers and add new requirements for mail-in balloting.
It remains to be seen whether enough House Democrats can stay away long enough to upend this special session too. Without a quorum in the House — meaning 100 of the chamber’s 150 members present — no bills can be debated or voted on.
Abbott directed lawmakers this special session to rethink those rules, a move that could deprive Democrats of the tactic going forward.
The House adjourned until 4 p.m. Monday following a prayer by Plano GOP Rep. Jeff Leach, who prayed that the rift between Republicans and Democrats could be healed.
“God, we’re staring right now at a raging ocean of division and hostility in this chamber,” he said.
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