February 21, 2024

Texas MP Chris Turner listens as Rafael M. Anchia joins other Democratic members of the Texas House of Representatives who are boycotting a special session of the Legislature to block Republican-backed election restrictions while they speak outside the US speak Washington Capitol, July 13, 2021.

Kevin Lamarque | Reuters

Vice President Kamala Harris will meet this week with Texas Democratic lawmakers who have fled the state to block a Republican-backed electoral law that she believes is discriminatory.

Senator Joe Manchin, DW.Va., is expected to meet with Democratic MPs for the Texan Legislature, although a date and time has not yet been set, according to a spokesman.

At least 51 Democratic members of the Texas House of Representatives fled the state on Monday en route to Washington, denying Republicans the required quorum to conduct business in the chamber. Seven other Democratic MPs should join them in the capital.

There are only 26 days left in a special session convened by GOP Governor Greg Abbott to approve changes to Texas voting rules. The Texas Democrats arrived in Washington with no set return date.

“We, as Democrats, agreed we said we are going to undo all undemocratic efforts in the state legislature. And if that meant leaving the state, we would,” said State Representative Rafael Anchia, one of the Democrats who fled.

Manchin didn’t respond on Tuesday when asked if he would support a spin-off in the Filibuster to pass the suffrage bill, saying only that he was “eager to meet the Texas Democrats”. The West Virginia Senator previously decided against changing the filibuster.

Over the weekend, after hours of debate and testimony, Texan lawmakers passed two voting measures, House Bill 3 and Senate Bill 1. The House of Representatives was due to meet again on Tuesday morning for one final vote, but the absent Democrats could hold it back.

“The Texas Democrats’ decision to break a quorum of the Texas legislature and abandon the Texas State Capitol is harming the very Texans they have chosen to serve,” Abbott said in a statement. “As you fly around the country in comfortable private planes, you leave issues open that can help your districts and our state.”

The departure of the Democrats increases the stance in the struggle for state legislation and in the national debate over the right to vote. Texas is one of several states that, after repeated false claims by former President Donald Trump that the 2020 election was stolen by widespread voter fraud, pushed for election measures that critics describe as discriminatory and restrictive.