In a last ditch effort, Democrats in the Texas state legislature walked out of a special session on Monday to prevent a number of key Republican-sponsored bills from advancing.
At least 58 Democratic state lawmakers left Texas and flew to Washington, D.C. to rally support for federal legislation, NBC News reported. Most of the fleeing state lawmakers will travel on a pair of prearranged private jets, the New York Times confirmed.
A photo obtained by a local NBC affiliate shows the legislators aboard one of the private planes bound for Washington, D.C.
ON PLANE TO DC: Texas Democratic lawmakers are leaving state to break quorum to stop Republican voting bill. Veteran Capitol observers say this is unchartered territory. Photo from Democrat on the plane. https://t.co/YOuOMb0A2m pic.twitter.com/abWoARvFIC
— ScottGordonNBC5 (@ScottGordonNBC5) July 12, 2021
Texas lieutenant governor Dan Patrick tweeted out a second photo of the lawmakers bound for the airport and drew his followers’ attention to a case of beer sitting in one of the seats.
Smiling House Dems fly off to DC on a private jet with a case of Miller Lite, breaking House quorum, abandoning their constituents, while the Senate still works. It’s my hope that Senate Dems report tomorrow to do what they were elected to do. We will vote on #SB1. #txlege pic.twitter.com/5Kcc4emNFg
— Dan Patrick (@DanPatrick) July 12, 2021
By exiting the chamber indefinitely, the Democratic lawmakers are denying the Texas GOP quorum, or the minimum number of members that must be in attendance to hold a legitimate session. Under the Texas Constitution, the legislature requires two-thirds of lawmakers to be present to resume the legislative process.
One measure on the table was the Lone Star state’s version of an elections bill, known as Senate Bill 7, which more closely regulates the rights of poll-watchers and the conditions under which they can be excluded from polls, bans 24-hour and drive-thru voting, and cracks down on paid “ballot harvesting” as well as mass mail-in ballot distributions.
To block the pending legislation, the Democratic lawmakers will need to stay out of the capitol in Austin through the end of the special session, which can last a maximum of 30 days under the state’s constitution. While they’re not in the chamber to conduct business, the legislators technically risk arrest, as state Republicans can authorize law enforcement to bring them back to the state for session.
This second walk-out comes after Texas Democrats staged an initial walk out over the election bill during a regular session, derailing an earlier version of it. Governor Abbott called a special session in response to put the bill back on the agenda. Amid partisan backlash and obstructionism, the bill has since been modified to remove two provisions, a measure cutting early voting hours on Saturdays and one that makes it easier for judges to overturn elections.