AUSTIN, Texas — For the first time in nearly six weeks, the Texas House had enough members present Thursday that they can start to conduct business and move forward. A standoff over new voting restrictions gridlocked the chamber for 38 days after Democrats fled the state to Washington, D.C. to block passage of the GOP-backed bill.
But some of those Democrats returned Thursday, paving the way for Republicans to resume pushing the elections legislation and a host of other issues on the special session call. Democrats were not united and some lashed out at their colleagues over “breaking ranks.”
“I’m devastated. I’m devastated because I can tell you with all absolute certainty that my Democratic colleagues just hurt all of Texas,” said Rep. Jasmine Crockett, D-Dallas, said in an interview on Capital Tonight Thursday. “I have no plans to return this session, because I went through an entire session dealing with my colleagues and every time we just tried to have a logical conversation, a logical argument, we couldn’t get that done.”
The House quorum is still tight with only three new Democrats showing up Thursday. Still, House Speaker Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, said there were enough there to resume work.
“It’s been a very long summer. Been through a lot. I appreciate you all being here,” Phelan said. “It’s time to get back to the business of the people of Texas.”
The three Democrats who returned to the Texas House defended their decision, saying in a statement they had successfully pushed Congress on voting rights legislation and pointed to the growing urgency of surging COVID-19 cases in Texas. One of them, Rep. Garnet Coleman, D-Houston, did not go to Washington because he was recovering from having a leg amputation brought on by an infection.
“One of the things in life is that we have to know what our responsibilities are and we have to work to move something in the direction we want it to be,” Coleman said from a wheelchair while delivering the prayer on the House floor.
Democrats had hoped to urge federal lawmakers to pass voting rights protections with their exodus to D.C., but the legislation still faces long odds.
Texas Republicans are now back on a path to pass new elections laws before the current special session ends on Sept. 5.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.