Returned from Washington, Texas Democrats reflect and regroup

by | Jun 18, 2021 | Politics, Texas Legislature

For several Texas House and Senate members, the past week has been a whirlwind of meetings, photos, and press hits in Washington. They traveled to Washington to make a pitch regarding federal voting rights legislation, and now they finally have some time to reflect on what happened, and what could possibly come next in the fight against voter suppression.

The Texas Democrats initially arrived on Tuesday to discuss the walkout against Senate Bill 7, and the importance of passing the For The People Act, a landmark federal bill that would expand voting rights. Immediately, the biggest focus of the delegation’s trip was Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who had previously written an op-ed saying he opposed the bill.

Reps. Trey Martinez Fischer and Jasmine Crockett met with Manchin’s staff on Tuesday. In comments to Texas Signal, Crockett maintained that the meeting with his Chief of Staff and another aide was quite substantial. According to Crockett, they started going through all the provisions of the For The People Act, also known as H.R. 1, they agreed with.

“I’m not really one for this term incremental change they continually try to sell me in the Texas House, but if this is what incremental looks like that will at least provide us cover now,” said Crockett. She also told the Texas Signal there were certain things that Manchin supported, like vote by mail options for those who are sick or have a conflict with work, that would be a lot more expansive than what we currently have in Texas now.

Crockett believes a big factor in Manchin’s movements towards supporting some version of a voting rights bill stems from his former role as West Virginia Secretary of State. She also believes she and Martinez Fischer were able to really convey the totality of the voter suppression efforts of SB 7 to him and his staff. “We were able to give them some of the details that they just weren’t privy to because they’ve not lived and breathed SB 7 all session,” said Crockett.

Some members of the Texas delegation did actually meet with Manchin in Washington. U.S. Reps. Sylvia Garcia, Al Green, and Henry Cuellar helped broker the last-minute meeting, which Garcia called “productive.” Senator Jose Menéndez posted on Twitter afterward, writing “Working together we’ll find a pathway forward to protect [voting rights] of all Americans and protect our democracy.”

For now, the fate of federal voting rights legislation is ominous. Republicans in the Senate threw cold water on Manchin’s proposal, which would include voter ID laws, and it seems unlikely the new H.R. 1 could secure a filibuster-proof majority.

But for Crockett, she remains undaunted. The trip to Washington, where she also got to meet with Senator Elizabeth Warren and U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, signified the importance of the SB 7 walkout. “We actually energized them here in D.C.,” she told the Texas Signal.

The fact that Manchin was engaging in an earnest debate, was also for Crockett a step forward on voting rights legislation. That wouldn’t have happened if Texas House Democrats had not broken the quorum. “I really do feel like we were heard, and we were heard in a manner that we wouldn’t have been heard if we just sat there and pushed our buttons and said no and [SB 7] became law,” said Crockett.

While Crockett and other members of the Texas House delegation are getting some brief rest after their Washington excursion, they are back on the road Sunday for a blockbuster voting rights rally at the Capitol in Austin.

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A longtime writer and journalist, Jessica was thrilled to join the Texas Signal where she could utilize her unique perspective on politics and culture. As the Features and Opinion Editor, she is responsible for coordinating editorials and segments from diverse authors. She is also the host of the podcast the Tex Mix, as well as the co-host for the weekly SignalCast. Jessica attended Harvard College, is a onetime fitness blogger, and has now transitioned to recreational runner (for which her joints are thankful).

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