Eight Democratic Texas state senators are in Washington, D.C., joining their Texas House counterparts who fled the state Monday to block passage of proposed voting legislation. A ninth is expected to join them Tuesday night.
Sen. Carol Alvarado, D-Houston, Sen. Sarah Eckhardt, D-Austin, and Sens. Royce West and Nathan Johnson, both Dallas Democrats, have confirmed to The Texas Tribune they have arrived in the nation’s capital Tuesday in solidarity with House Democrats.
“The bill is dead for now,” Eckhardt said. “And while it's dead, we wanted to make sure those of us senators who came up, that we were seeing every opportunity available during this time to raise awareness of how damaging this bill is.”
Eckhardt said Alvarado, Johnson and Beverly Powell arrived via commercial airline early Tuesday morning. Alvarado said West, Roland Gutierrez and José Menéndez arrived on the same commercial flight.
Multiple senators said they plan to meet with members of Congress to shine a light on aspects of Senate Bill 1 that they oppose and encourage passage of federal voting rights legislation, but they could not share specific plans or how long they plan to be in Washington.
“I don't want these bad bills — that are essentially nothing more than a show for Republican primary — to pass with little observation from the general public,” Johnson said. “And no matter how hard and fervently I argue in the Senate, it doesn't get presented to the public. So let's shine a spotlight on this stuff.”
In total, nine Democratic state senators were not on the Senate floor Tuesday morning when Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick gaveled in for the day's legislative activities before recessing briefly.
A staffer for Sen. Borris Miles, D-Houston, confirmed he would join the other senators already in Washington by the end of the day.
The four Democrats who were present on the Senate floor Tuesday were Sens. Eddie Lucio Jr., Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, Judith Zaffirini and John Whitmire, enough for a quorum of the Senate to proceed with Tuesday’s activities.
“I want to thank the 22 of you who are here for a quorum today,” Patrick said, “as the Senate will do our business this week.”
The Senate could reportedly vote on SB 1, its version of the voting restrictions legislation, as early as Tuesday.
— Kate McGee