The Texas state House formed a quorum Thursday, following a six-week long break in business after more than 50 Democrats fled to Washington, D.C. in an attempt to bar the passage of a controversial voting reform bill.
Texas legislators re-established a quorum after 99 lawmakers voted 99-0 to resume business in the state’s lower chamber. Another 49 lawmakers were reported as absent, first reported the Texas Tribune.
Republicans will now be able to pass a number of bills Democrats have contested after Democratic Rep. Leo Pacheco resigned Thursday – allowing the 100-member requirement needed to reach a quorum to drop to a 99-member threshold.
Pacheco was one of a handful of Democrats that did not travel to D.C. in protest during Gov. Greg Abbott’s first special session.
At least 57 Democrats flew to Washington to lobby Congress to pass federal voting rights reform bills like the “John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.”
Voting rights activists and Democrats believe federal voting reform would prevent states from implementing restrictive voting measures they believe target minority communities. Republicans have argued the laws would serve to secure the elective process.
Though the majority of the party’s 67 Democrats have not returned to Austin, Reps. Garnet Coleman, Ana Hernandez, and Armando Walle of Houston released a joint statement outlining their decision to return to the state legislature.
“Our efforts were successful and served as the primary catalyst to push Congress to take action on federal voter protection legislation,” their statement said. “Now, we continue the fight on the House Floor.”
The trio of lawmakers pointed to the spiking number in coronavirus cases as a leading reason for returning to the Texas capital.
While GOP House Speaker Dade Phelan championed the return to the lower chamber by telling lawmakers, “It’s time to get back to the business of the people of Texas,” fellow House Democrats were frustrated by the Houston legislators.
State Rep. Ron Reynolds, who has become a leading figure in the Texas Democrat’s voting reform fight, said he is “extremely disappointed” in his colleagues.
“I will continue to stay in D.C. to encourage Congress to pass HR4 John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act on next week,” he told Fox News.
“The majority of our Democratic Caucus will not return to the House floor for the remainder of the Suppression Session,” he added, referring to the second special session Abbott launched earlier this month.