WASHINGTON, D.C., USA — The Texas Democratic House members who fled the state on Monday to block a voting bill held a press conference Tuesday morning in Washington, D.C.
“We're not doing this for Democrats. We're doing this for Republicans and Independents….Anyone in the state of Texas who needs to exercise their right to vote should do so freely,” state Rep. Rafael Anchia said.
The Texas Democratic lawmakers appeared with the state’s federal congressional delegation outside the U.S. Capitol Tuesday morning.
KHOU 11's Matt Dougherty is in D.C. with special coverage of the Democrat's standoff.
"We are here in D.C., our nation's capital, because we want to protect the civil right to vote for millions of Texans. We were quite literally forced to move and leave the state of Texas. We also know that we are living right now on borrowed time in Texas, and we can't stay here indefinitely to run out the clock, to stop Republican anti-voter bills. That's why we need Congress to act now, and pass the For The People Act," state Rep. Rhetta Bowers said. "Texas Democrats will use everything in our power to fight back, but we need Congress to act now."
Democrats are pushing Congress to pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. The first is a sweeping federal elections bill while the other shores up the Voting Rights Act.
More than 50 state House members are now in Washington. They landed at Dulles International Airport late Monday evening. A large group boarded chartered jets in Austin to leave Texas ahead of the special session resuming on Tuesday.
"We're fighting with everything we got," state Rep. Jasmine Crockett said.
Crockett was the first to arrive in D.C. By leaving Texas, she and her colleagues will prevent Texas Republicans from attaining a quorum necessary to conduct state business. In other words, the special session is now paralyzed and in limbo.
"If we would have gone back tomorrow I fully anticipate they would have locked the doors and locked us in until they got these bills passed," Crockett said.
State Rep Shawn Thierry of Houston had to make childcare arrangements before joining her colleagues out of state.
“I booked a flight, a commercial flight today, and the flight was canceled, then another flight was canceled, and I became very fearful that after 10 a.m. that I would be arrested because the governor and Speaker of the House, they put a call in the House, which means that, at any given moment, Texas DPS has the authority to arrest me and bring me back to the House chamber and lock me in the chamber," Rep. Thierry said.
The Republican bill would impose tighter voting restrictions in Texas, such as new ID requirements for voting by mail and banning 24-hour and drive-thru voting sites.
"I am tired of sitting as a hostage in the Texas House while Republicans strip away the right of my constituents to vote," Rep. Senfronia Thompson said.
Texas Democrats plan to stay in D.C. until after Aug. 7 when the special session is set to end. They plan to pressure Congress to step in.
"There is no more time, you must pass strong federal protection legislation and you must do it now before this session ends," Rep. Chris Turner said.
Gov. Greg Abbott says this is nothing but a delay and vows Republicans will pass the bill one way or another.
"I can and will continue to call special session after special session after special session until the election next year," Abbott said. "So if these people want to hang out where they're hanging out they better be prepared to do it for a year."
Abbott said lawmakers should be arrested when they return to the state and cabined in the State Capitol until they get their job done.