For the moment, Senate Bill 7, the controversial voter suppression bill that Texas Republicans were attempting to pass before a midnight deadline, has been stopped. The current defeat came after Democrats in the Texas House walked off the floor and broke quorum.
Texas Signal spoke with State Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer about the dramatic walkout, the prospects of keeping SB 7 from passing in a special session, and what he’d like to tell Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema.
For Martinez Fischer, it was imperative that Democrats kept a united front right before they walked out. He credits State Rep. Chris Turner, who is also the Chair of the House Democratic caucus, with a solid tactic that kept Republicans from noticing. “The only way a quorum break could be possible, is if there is a mounted floor strategy that keeps Republicans busy,” said Martinez Fischer.
In the aftermath of the walkout, Texas Republicans like Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick blasted the move. However, Martinez Fischer points out that the very existence of the quorum is laid out clearly in the Texas Constitution. “If you don’t like the presence of the quorum, then they can tear the page out of the Constitution if they don’t want it,” he said regarding Republican opposition.
For Martinez Fischer, SB 7 is at its very core a voter suppression bill that doesn’t address anything about voter fraud (which is exceedingly rare). “The Republican Secretary of State said the election was safe and secure,” said Martinez Fischer, who also notes that Donald Trump won the state by over five points.
Earlier this week, Gov. Abbott threatened to veto Article 10 of the budget, which funds the legislative branch. That move prompted criticism from several Texas Republicans, including Speaker Dade Phelan, who pointed out that it would hurt employees and staff. Martinez Fischer also believes Abbott’s threat is unnecessarily cruel. “There is somebody sitting in the Capitol cafeteria preparing somebody’s lunch and there’s probably a lawn crew cutting the grass, when you make threats to cut salaries you jeopardize their livelihood,” he said.
With a special session looming in the horizon, Martinez Fischer does not concede that SB 7 is an inevitability. “Please never underestimate the resolve and grit of Texas Democrats,” said Martinez Fischer. Still, he acknowledges that Texas Democrats are taking this fight one step at a time.
A bill to protect voting rights, H.R. 1, also known as the For The People Act, passed the U.S. House earlier this year. However, it is currently stalled in the U.S. Senate thanks to Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, who are against breaking the filibuster. Martinez Fischer hopes that they will both “cowboy up” for the sake of American democracy and allow H.R. 1 to pass in the Senate. “If they steamroll us in Texas, Republicans will march state to state taking away people’s right to vote and they will destroy our country.”