Texas Dems stop GOP repression for now by fleeing to D.C.
Texas House Democrats at a press conference in Austin. Yesterday they fled the state en masse in order to prevent the GOP legislators from having a quorum to vote on a measure that would destroy voting rights in their state. They are now camped out in Washington D.C, where they are lobbying for passage of national legislation that will overturn repressive voting rights bills not just in Texas but everywhere across the country. | Acacia Coronado/AP

WASHINGTON—The nationwide war over voter repression, pitting the Republican racist right against the rest of us, is heating up.

In an historic and dramatic move, more than 50 Texas Democratic state legislators fled Austin for Washington, on July 12 preventing the GOP majority there from having the quorum they needed to pass a vote suppression bill. They have to stay out of Texas for at least a month to avoid arrest by state troopers the Republican governor can send to drag them back to the Capitol and hold them captive until his bill is passed. The troopers and the governor have no authority to arrest the lawmakers outside the borders of Texas.

When the lawmakers were making their secret plans to flee Texas they reportedly considered going to camp out in Arizona and West Virginia to pressure the Democratic Senators in those states to support ending the filibuster so that the voting rights bills can pass without Republican support. They decided against that plan, fearing that GOP governors in those states might help the Republican governor of Texas force them back home.

President Joe Biden adds his voice to the national uprising against voter suppression today in a major speech he is delivering in Philadelphia. He also planned to call repressive anti-voting measures, such as the Texas GOP’s legislation, “authoritarian and anti-American,” Press Secretary Jen Psaki said.

Both moves came as a third force, the Poor People’s Campaign, announced a month-long drive to lobby senators from coast to coast to approve legislation protecting and enhancing voting rights, overturning repressive state laws and ending the Senate filibuster, which lets the GOP minority block voting rights legislation—and almost everything else.

The Texas lawmakers, on landing in D.C., planned to lobby senators, who returned July 13 from their Independence Day recess, to pass the For the People Act, a comprehensive elections and political reform bill which would stop and negate GOP repression, including the Texas legislation and past anti-voting laws in Arizona, Iowa, North Carolina, Florida, and Georgia.

“We are now taking the fight to our Nation’s Capital,” Texas House Democratic Caucus Chair Chris Martinez Turner, D-San Antonio, and other leaders said in a statement before boarding two small jets to fly from Austin to Dulles International Airport in the D.C. suburbs. “We are living on borrowed time in Texas,” he added, referring to the GOP voter repression bill there.

“We need Congress to act now to pass the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act to protect Texans—and all Americans—from the Trump Republicans’ nationwide war on democracy.”

“This is not a vacation,” added State Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-Arlington, at a press conference at Dulles. “This is not a junket. I don’t want a single U.S. senator to go home for the August recess thinking everything is fine with voting rights in America. We’re here to present the case that it is not.”

Biden’s speech was slated for the National Constitution Center next to the historic Independence Hall in Philadelphia.

Previewing the President’s speech, Biden Press Secretary Psaki said it would be the first of many he’d make, using the bully pulpit to campaign hard for the basic right to vote, unencumbered by repression.

Biden will “lay out the moral case for why denying the right to vote is a form of suppression and a form of silencing,” she told reporters on July 12.

The president “will redouble his commitment to using every tool at his disposal to continue to fight to protect the fundamental right of Americans to vote against the onslaught of voter suppression laws, based on a dangerous and discredited conspiracy theory that culminated in an assault on our Capitol.

“The greatest irony of the Big Lie is that no election in our history has met such a high standard, with over 80 judges, including those appointed by his predecessor”—GOP Oval Office occupant Donald Trump—”throwing out all challenges.

“He’ll also decry efforts to strip the right to vote as authoritarian and anti-American, and stand up against the notion that politicians should be allowed to choose their voters or to subvert our system by replacing independent election authorities with partisan ones.”

Besides discussing his administration’s work protecting voting rights, such as a lawsuit the Justice Department has already filed against Georgia’s voter repression law, Biden “will highlight…the necessity of passing the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, and how we need to work together with civil rights organizations to build as broad a turnout and voter education system to overcome the worst challenge to our democracy since the Civil War.”

The right to vote “is a fundamental right,” Psaki said the President would declare.

And Biden will discuss a mass education campaign to empower, engage and support national efforts “to make sure people know their rights and understand how to participate in the process,” she said. The Democratic National Committee just committed $25 million to that drive.

The rightists and racists are gearing up for war, too, and not just in the legislative halls in Austin, Atlanta, Phoenix, Tallahassee, Fla.,  Lansing, Mich., and other state capitals.

At the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Dallas, the city whose resident Lee Harvey Oswald murdered President John F. Kennedy, Trump repeated and expanded on his big lie that the election was stolen. One participant passed our cards headlined, in caps, “7-PT. PLAN TO RESTORE DONALD J. TRUMP IN DAYS, NOT YEARS,” the Washington Post reported.

The roaring and howling mob at CPAC evidenced so much blood lust on the issue that former Watergate Special Prosecutor Jill Wine-Banks told MSNBC both the U.S. Capitol Police and state capitol officers must prepare to defend against a second Trumpite invasion and insurrection.

Whether the Capitol Police are listening is questionable: After six months, the anti-mob fencing around the Capitol, which they erected after the Jan. 6 Trumpite insurrection and attempted pro-Trump coup d’état, was taken down on July 12.


CONTRIBUTOR

Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.

John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward, as a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee, and as an activist in the union's campaign to win public support for Wal-Mart workers. In the 1970s and '80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.

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