A 38-day walkout by Democrats in the Texas House of Representatives effectively ended on Thursday as three previously absent members arrived in the Capitol, clearing the way for Republicans to establish a quorum and pass restrictive voting rules, according to The New York Times.
Despite efforts by Democrats to maintain a solid block even as most returned from Washington this month, the three representatives from Houston decided to return together, an apparent effort to deflect any criticism from their colleagues or liberal activists.
The House adjourned until 4 p.m. Monday without any votes, but hearings were expected to take place over the weekend. The passage of sweeping voting restrictions — to undo last year’s expansion of ballot access during the coronavirus pandemic in places like Houston and empower partisan poll watchers — appeared quite likely in the coming days.
“We took the fight for voting rights to Washington, D.C.,” the three Democratic legislators, Garnet Coleman, Ana Hernandez and Armando Walle, said in a joint statement, adding, “Now we continue the fight on the House floor.”
The three arrived in the Capitol as a group, with Mr. Walle pushing Mr. Coleman, who has severe diabetes and underwent a lower leg amputation this spring, in a wheelchair.
“It is time to move past these partisan legislative calls and to come together to help our state mitigate the effects of the current Covid-19 surge,” they said in their statement.
When it began on July 12, few believed that the Democratic walkout would last this long.
More than 50 representatives, cheered by activists and voting rights groups, flew in chartered planes to Washington, met with the vice president and top officials in the Senate, and succeeded in shutting down a special session of the Legislature called by Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, to pass new laws on voting and other priorities of his party’s base.
The absent Democrats ran down the clock of the 30-day special session, and Mr. Abbott immediately called a second one. But Democrats remained away from the Capitol.
Dozens of legislators began returning to Texas this month, albeit with none of the fanfare that accompanied their departure from Austin.