It was a historic moment in politics. After realizing that they were outgunned, Texas Democrats walked out and headed to Washington, D.C., to stop a racist voting bill from making its way into law, creating one of the longest quorum breaks in Texas history. But as with the NBA Playoffs, Breaking Bad and Christmas, all good things must come to an end.
On Thursday, for the first time since July, enough Democrats returned to the Texas House, effectively ending the monthslong standoff to stall a voting rights bill that will make it harder for people of color to vote. This was the second time Dems break quorum after a dramatic walkout in May.
From the Washington Post:
The House had a quorum as of 6:13 p.m. local time after several more Democrats returned to the floor. House Speaker Dade Phelan (R) gaveled the session to order and welcomed one of the Democrats — Rep. Garnet Coleman — by name, inviting him to deliver the opening prayer.
The majority-Republican chamber quickly referred the voting-restrictions bill to committee, bringing the measure one step closer to passage. Abbott listed elections policy among the 17 issues to be addressed during the second special session, which can last up to 30 days.
“Members, this has been a very long summer. We’ve been through a lot,” Phelan said before the House adjourned at 6:20 p.m. “I appreciate the members who made quorum today. It’s time we get back to the business of the people of Texas.”
There were tense moments leading up to the vote as it was unclear that a quorum would be reached. The presence of 99 members was needed to move the bill forward.
“House members fell silent as three Democrats entered the House floor at 5 p.m. local time. Coleman, in a wheelchair, was accompanied by Reps. Armando Walle and Ana Hernandez,” the Post reports.
The newspaper notes that the three Houston-area Dems released a joint statement expressing how proud they were of the stance they took but adding that COVID-19 surging throughout the state and schools set to reopen as the reason for their return.
“We are proud of the heroic work and commitment we and our fellow Democratic caucus members have shown in breaking quorum in May and again over the summer,” the trio stated, the Post reports. “We took the fight for voting rights to Washington, D.C. and brought national attention to the partisan push in our state to weaken ballot access. Our efforts were successful and served as the primary catalyst to push Congress to take action on federal voter protection legislation. Now, we continue the fight on the House Floor.”
“COVID-19 is ravaging our state and overwhelming our health care system worse than at any other point during this pandemic,” the statement continued. “State and local officials are sprinting to protect the health and well-being of students, staff, and families returning to school, while also contending with mixed and contradictory messages from state leadership. … It is time to move past these partisan legislative calls, and to come together to help our state mitigate the effects of the current COVID-19 surge.”