J. Scott Applewhite / AP
A group of Texas state lawmakers are in Washington, DC, to meet this week with Congressional Democrats and Vice President Harris as part of a larger effort to pressure Democrats to they pass far-reaching legislation on voting rights and electoral reform.
Texas lawmakers on Tuesday met with the staff of Senator Joe Manchin, DW.Va., a key opponent of the bill, called For the People Act. Manchin himself did not attend.
“I think they heard us,” said Jasmine Crockett, state representative for Texas. told reporters, referring to Manchin staff. Representative Trey Martinez Fischer called it an “extremely productive visit”.
Texas lawmakers also had a private meeting with a group of Senate Democrats.
“They must have had five or six standing ovations,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y .. “We were really impressed with their courage, their bravery and, most importantly, their mission.”
Last month, Democrats in Texas State House walked out of the legislative session and deprived Republicans of the quorum needed to pass a restrictive ballot bill. The move was hailed by Democrats and voting rights activists across the country.
The legislation would have tightened the state’s already restrictive electoral laws, reducing voting hours; postpone the start of the Sunday vote, when many black worshipers vote; and eliminate drive-thru voting and 24-hour voting centers, which had been proposed in the 2020 election in Harris County, a Democratic stronghold.
The Democratic walkout has inflicted a rare – albeit temporary – defeat on Republicans who control all levers of power in the Lone State State. GOP Governor Greg Abbott has the power to recall the legislature for a special session to pass the bill, and has indicated he plans to do so.
Republicans say the legislation is necessary to maintain election integrity, although there is no evidence of significant fraud in the state’s election results. Abbott told a local NBC affiliate that the bill would enforce uniform standards across the state and not allow counties, as Harris County did, to implement new rules on their own. to vote.
He has also shown little interest in finding a compromise with the Democrats. “All it takes is a majority vote. I think Republicans will agree to support him in both the Texas House and the Texas Senate,” he said.
In Congress, most Democrats support two pending bills:
- the For the People Act, which is a major overhaul of federal election and campaign finance laws;
- and a bill named after the late Representative John Lewis that would restore and modernize parts of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that were struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013.
The House has already passed election overhaul legislation and Schumer intends to present the Senate version of the bill next week.
“Congress must take action to defend our democracy,” Schumer said Tuesday. He said Senate Democrats will meet again this week to discuss their voting rights strategy.
The measure is almost certain to fail, and this week’s visit by Texas lawmakers is largely symbolic. Republicans overwhelmingly oppose it, as does Manchin, a critical vote because he lacks bipartisan support. Manchin has repeatedly and publicly sworn that he will not support changing Senate filibuster rules to make the bill easier to pass, but he does support the measure named after Lewis.
Manchin’s opposition and a growing cascade of GOP-led efforts to pass restrictive bills in states across the country have intensified pressure from Democrats for new federal election laws.
“Unfortunately, time is running out for our democracy when it comes to the sanctity of the vote, unless we take action to fight the steps Republicans across the country are taking to suppress the vote,” wrote the president of House, Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., wrote in a letter to House Democrats this week. “This assault on the vote will hurt not only our freedom, but America’s example of freedom around the world.”
Texas lawmakers will also meet with Harris at the White House on Wednesday. President Biden called on Harris to lead his administration’s efforts to protect and expand voting rights.