The quorum-busting Texas House Democrats may have to prolong their stay in Washington, D.C.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued a proclamation Thursday announcing a second special session to start at 12 p.m. Saturday, making good on his vow to keep convening additional sessions until the legislature takes up his priorities, starting with a voting overhaul bill.
The first 30-day special session ends Friday, but only the Senate was able to pass bills after nearly 60 House Democrats fled the state in chartered jets last month to block the elections legislation by denying the chamber a quorum.
“The Texas Legislature achieved a great deal during the 87th legislative session, and they have a responsibility to finish the work that was started,” Mr. Abbott said in a statement. “I will continue to call special session after special session to reform our broken bail system, uphold election integrity, and pass other important items that Texans demand and deserve.”
In addition to the elections bill, the Republican governor said his priorities include addressing bail reform, federal relief appropriations, education, border security, social media censorship, family violence prevention, youth sports and curbing critical race theory.
“Passing these special session agenda items will chart a course towards a stronger and brighter future for the Lone Star State,” Mr. Abbott said.
The move may force the hand of the House Democrats, who have vowed to stay out of the state for as long as it takes to kill the legislation that they describe as a voter-suppression measure — a characterization Republicans dispute.
While in Washington, D.C., the Democrats have pushed for the Senate to pass H.R. 1, which would give the federal government more control over state elections, but their message was undercut by a COVID-19 outbreak that infected at least six members.
The White House and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office said last month that fully vaccinated aides had tested positive for the virus, reportedly after coming into contact with members of the Texas delegation.
Whether the Democrats can remain AWOL will depend on a host of factors, but one legislator said the refugees were willing to stick it out.
“Many of us are willing to extend our time in D.C. and away from Austin,” state Rep. Ron Reynolds told Fox News, even though it would mean a “great deal of sacrifice” for the lawmakers.
State Rep. Alma Allen told reporters Tuesday that a decision will be made in the next few days, according to the Texas Tribune.
Remaining in Washington, D.C., for another month would be pricey: Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke and others have been fundraising on the delegation’s behalf while members are reportedly staying at the Washington Plaza Hotel
“The group is determined to stay together,” said state Rep. Erin Zwiener. “When we return to the [House] floor, we will return together.”