Texas House reach quorum with Dems back in Austin, poised to vote on disputed election bill

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The Texas House of Representatives reached a quorum Thursday for the first time since nearly 60 Democratic lawmakers fled Austin to stall a vote on a controversial election reform bill.

The legislators’ unprecedented nearly six week decampment to Washington, DC to lobby for federal voting reforms, created a standoff with GOP officials who issued warrants for the arrest of the runaway pols.

Democrats started trickling back to the statehouse last week, but on Thursday enough lawmakers returned to meet the body’s 100-member threshold for a vote, according to The Texas Tribune.

The quorum was secured in dramatic fashion as Democrats Armando Walle and Ana Hernandez pushed wheelchair-bound Rep. Garnet Coleman onto the floor of the House Thursday, the paper reported.

The stage is now set for a vote on the GOP bill, which Democrats have been trying to block since May, contending it would infringe on the ability of minorities to cast ballots in The Lone Star State.

“It’s time to get back to the business of the people of Texas,” House Speaker Dade Phelan, a Republican, reportedly said, as a slew of bills were referred to committees. “I appreciate every one of you. I’m looking forward to working with you over the coming week or two.”

The House adjourned in the evening and will reconvene on Monday, according to the report.

State Rep. Armando Walle, Rep. Garnet F. Coleman, and Rep. Ana Hernandez enter the House Chamber at the Capitol in Austin, Texas, on Thursday Aug. 19, 2021.
Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman via AP

Democratic lawmakers began blocking a vote on the bill in May with a walkout to run out the clock out on the legislative calendar. That led Republican Gov. Greg Abbott to order a special session. The caucus responded by leaving Austin en masse on July 12, prompting Abbott to call for another 30-day special session, which is currently underway.

The voting restriction measure at the center of the havoc would block expanded voting access while giving politicians in the red state more control over polling sites, and is one of numerous GOP sponsored election bills across the country influenced by former President Trump’s false claims of election fraud in 2020.

Democrats claim it will make it harder for marginalized people to cast votes in Texas, while Republicans maintain it will improve election integrity.

Texas Department of Safety officers stand watch near the Texas House Chamber at the Texas Capitol, Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2021, in Austin, Texas
A standoff in Texas over new voting restrictions that gridlocked the state Capitol for 38 consecutive days ended Thursday when some Democrats who fled to Washington, D.C., dropped their holdout.
AP Photo/Eric Gay

The three returning lawmakers issued a joint statement stating they were “proud of the heroic work and commitment” Democrats had shown in fighting the bill, the Texas paper said.

“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,” the statement reportedly read. “Now, we continue the fight on the House Floor.”

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