Second special session will begin without Texas Democrats in D.C.

Latest stalemate begins on 56th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act

WASHINGTON, D.C. – As many expected, 57 Texas House Democratic lawmakers who broke quorum during last month’s special session are doing it a second time.

At a news conference Friday, State Representative Trey Martinez Fischer said, “Make no mistake, we do not telegraph what our plans are, but do not be fooled. If Congress is in session, we are in session.”

He said, “Our job is here and we will have a significant number of members staying here and waiting day by day, engaging day by day, finishing the fight.”

“We are strongly committed and resolved to stay out as long as we need to,” said State Representative Barbara Gervin Hawkins, of San Antonio.

The Texas House Democrats have been pushing for federal voting rights legislation to roll back the changes Texas and other states are making in their elections.

They said they’re optimistic a new draft of the John Lewis Advancement Act will get a vote before the August recess. It would require states with a history of discrimination to get any changes in voting laws pre-cleared by the U.S. Justice Department.

Gervin-Hawkins said pre-clearance was integral to the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

She pointed out the latest stalemate comes on the 56th anniversary of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

“A major significance in one aspect, but it’s a shame on the other that we’re still fighting to give people the right to vote,” she said.

The Texas House Republican Caucus has produced a spot on its YouTube channel, saying the Democrats in D.C. “abandoned” pending legislation from border security to foster care.

In a statement, Speaker Dade Phelan said, “The Texas House remains committed to fulfilling its responsibilities as soon our Democratic colleagues return.”

At a White House news conference Friday, press secretary Jen Psaki said, “The president believes that they’ve been outspoken advocates and champions of voting rights.”

However, when asked if the Texas Democrats should stay home this time, she said, “I can’t say I’m following the legislative calendar there, but if certainly, it requires them to be there, we would support that.”

Jon Taylor, chair of the UTSA department of political science and geography, said he took that to mean, “The legislature is in session again. It’s time to go home.”

But if so, Martinez Fischer has already said, “This is the job we have and we will finish that and we’re going to finish strong.”

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About the Authors:

Jessie Degollado has been with KSAT since 1984. She is a general assignments reporter who covers a wide variety of stories. Raised in Laredo and as an anchor/reporter at KRGV in the Rio Grande Valley, Jessie is especially familiar with border and immigration issues. In 2007, Jessie also was inducted into the San Antonio Women's Hall of Fame.

William Caldera has been at KSAT since 2003. He covers a wide range of stories including breaking news, weather, general assignments and sports.