The group of Texas House Democrats who escaped their state for Washington, D.C., held a news conference marking the halfway point of the special session they’re blocking and said they will stay away for the last two weeks of the session, accusing Gov. Greg Abbott of politically motivated blackmail.
The Democrats initially boycotted a session of GOP-backed voting legislation during a regular session, denying a quorum, and then were called back by Abbott for a special session to pass the bill.
Abbott’s special session was “essentially a monthlong campaign commercial,” said state Rep. Chris Turner, chair of the Texas House Democratic Caucus. “By vetoing the legislature and then calling a special session, what Gov. Abbott is trying to do is essentially blackmail lawmakers into doing his bidding instead of protecting our constituents. We are protecting our constituents instead of doing blackmail.”
Turner added that he and his fellow Democrats will remain outside of Texas and continue blocking the controversial election integrity bill at least until the special session ends in two weeks.
Another Democrat, state Rep. Rafael Anchia, who chairs the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, took a similar stance and called for Republicans to “stop the politics” and explained that his group had no choice but to flee the state.
“I want to thank the brave Texans and American patriots behind me,” Anchia said referring to the roughly a dozen masked lawmakers behind him. He informed reporters that Vice President Kamala Harris told the group they are being “patriotic.”
“We really had no choice but to take this bold action,” Anchia added. “We would really love to be back with our constituents in Texas. We love Texas and we love this country. We would ask Republicans like Gov. Greg Abbott and Dan Patrick to put politics aside.”
State Rep. Jasmine Crockett also spoke about the group’s constituents in Texas and pushed back at Republicans criticizing them for abandoning their work responsibilities back home, arguing the Democrats are actually doing more work now than they would be in Texas.
“There is a rhetoric for whatever reason that we have run away,” Crockett said in response to Republican criticisms of their trip.
“We are very active on social media. I answer all DMs on all social media platforms. We’re doing Instagram lives. We are doing Facebook lives. We obviously had our MSNBC town hall on Monday,” she said.
Crockett added that the group is going “far beyond what is required of us” when it comes to the coronavirus, which she referred to as the “elephant in the room.”
Many social media users disagreed with Crockett’s assessment over the past couple of weeks, highlighted by a widely-panned photograph of the Texas Democrats flying in a private jet without masks.
Six of the lawmakers who made the trip to the nation’s capital tested positive for the coronavirus, and aides to both House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Joe Biden contracted the virus after meeting with the group.
Texas Democrats said in Friday’s press conference that there have been no new additional positive tests and that all infected members are doing fine.