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The Texas House Democratic Caucus could not account Tuesday for two of the members who broke quorum and fled for Washington, D.C., over Republicans' priority elections bill, while a Texas Monthly reporter said the members were on vacation in Portugal.
State Reps. Julie Johnson of Farmers Branch and Jessica González of Dallas were not with other House Democrats on Tuesday in the nation's capital, according to a person familiar with the situation. On Tuesday evening, Texas Monthly reporter Jonathan Tilove tweeted that he "can confirm [Johnson] and her wife & [González] and her fiancé are in Portugal for a vacation they had been planning, with non-refundable tickets, for a year-and-a-half."
Neither Johnson nor González, or their staffs, responded to requests for comment from The Texas Tribune throughout Tuesday and Wednesday morning.
In a text exchange though with the San Antonio Express-News on Tuesday evening, González referred to the Portugal trip as "rumors" and said "no one has shown proof."
"These are rumors, period," she said. "End of story."
Their absence from Washington does not affect the lack of quorum that the House has in Austin that prevents the chamber from passing an elections bill. But it is at odds with House Democrats’ insistence that they would use their time away from the state Legislature, which they left in July, to advocate for federal voting rights legislation in the nation’s capital.
González is an especially prominent player in the voting rights fight as the vice chair of the Texas House Elections Committee.
While it was reported that Johnson and González were "still participating in caucus meetings via ZOOM," the news of their absence came the same day that more than 100 state legislators from across the country went to Washington for a rally to support the Texas Democrats. This is the last week of the special session in Austin.
The news of the Democrats' vacation brought a wave of House condemnation from their Republican colleagues who have been stuck in Austin waiting for them to return.
"Wow, just wow. Had to cancel my family’s vacation last week to Grand Teton [National Park] because of a special session they helped create back in May," tweeted state Rep. Tom Oliverson of Cypress, referring to the House Democratic walkout that killed the elections bill during the regular session. "Texas deserves better than this."
Hours before word got out that Johnson and González were missing from Washington, three of their Democratic colleagues had a news conference where they continued to express optimism about the federal elections push.
“We are squarely focused on getting those pieces moving,” state Rep. Joe Moody of El Paso said. “I think we’re gonna have a lot of success this week.”
Disclosure: Texas Monthly has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.
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