Texas Democrats meet with Schumer, activists show support back home

by | Jul 13, 2021 | Politics, Texas Legislature

Texas House Democrats wrapped up their day with a meeting with Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, where he praised the lawmakers for leaving Texas and breaking quorum to prevent legislation that would make it more difficult to vote.

“These lawmakers are brave, they’re courageous,” Schumer said of his meeting with Democrats. “And they are simply fighting for the right of every Texan to have the right to vote. What could be more all-American than that?”

Texas House Democrats also held meetings with Sens. Alex Padilla (D-California) and Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York).  The delegation of on-the-run Democrats is trying to bolster support for two major pieces of legislation, John Lewis Voting Rights Act and the For the People Act. 

The John Lewis Voting Rights Act would restore provisions to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that were struck down by the Supreme Court 2013, and force states like Texas with a history of racist voter suppression to be subject to federal oversight called “preclearance.” 

The For the People Act would overhaul campaign finance laws, go after dark money, and attempt to reduce congressional gerrymandering via independent redistricting commissions. 

Both bills have been passed in the U.S. House but are stalled in the Senate by a defiant Republican minority as well as several moderate Democrats who do not want to end the Senate’s 60-vote threshold for filibuster-proof votes.

The meeting with Schumer follows remarks made by President Joe Biden in a national speech about voting rights and democracy on Tuesday. Biden renewed calls to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, which he said would restore and expand voting protections and prevent voter suppression. 

The president said 17 states had enacted 28 new laws to make it harder for Americans to vote. 

“The 21st Century Jim Crow assault is real, it’s unrelenting, and we’re going to challenge it vigorously,” Biden said. 

In Texas, labor, civil rights, and voting rights groups held a rally in support of the Democrat walkout as part of “Voting Rights Advocacy Day.” 

“We’re here today because Texas is ground zero in the fight for voting rights,” said Diana Gómez, advocacy manager with Progress Texas. “Texas Republicans have made it clear that they‘re terrified of our power and our vote, and that fear culminated in Gov. Abbott’s toxic special agenda.”

The rally was attended by more than a dozen groups, including Common Cause Texas, ACLU of Texas, Texas Democrats, Voto Latino, Texas Organizing Project, and Texas Civil Rights Project. Many speakers at the rally implored Gov. Greg Abbott to focus on important issues facing Texans, like fixing the power grid.

Sarah Labowitz, policy director of the ACLU Texas said the legislation being considered by Republicans threatened to lead to the arrest of thousands of Texans. 

“This is about people fighting to exercise their civic duty and our legislature potentially criminalizing that activity,” Labowitz said. 

Labowitz said she had recently met with Hervis Rogers, a Houston man who waited in line for several hours during the 2020 primary, only to be arrested last week for voting while on parole. 

“He was arrested outside his home, taken to a jail more than an hour away, and held on a $100,000 bond he could not afford,” Labowitz said. “That is what is at stake if these bills pass.”

James Slattery, a senior voting rights attorney with the Texas Civil Rights Project said House Republicans rushed to pass the bill out of committee despite hours of testimony pointing out problems in the bill.

“This was not a real legislative process, this is just a raw naked grab for power,” Slattery said, praising Democrats for stopping the “sham proceedings.” 

“There are three people in Washington D.C. who can bring this madness of voter suppression to an end,” Slattery said. “President Biden, Senator Manchin, Senator Sinema, you need to pass the  For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Act, now!” 

fernando@texassignal.com | + posts

Fernando covers Texas politics and government at the Texas Signal. Before joining the Signal, Fernando spent two years at the Houston Chronicle and previously interned at Houston’s NPR station News 88.7. He is a graduate of the University of Houston, Jack J. Valenti School of Communication, and enjoys reading, highlighting things, and arguing on social media. You can follow him on Twitter at @fernramirez93 or email at fernando@texassignal.com

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