AUSTIN (CBSDFW.COM/AP) — A monthlong standoff by Texas Democrats who left the state to block a GOP voting bill inched closer to ending on August 9 after several holdouts returned and put Republicans on the brink of having enough lawmakers to push forward with an election overhaul.
As of Monday the Texas House of Representatives was just five members shy of a quorum that would end what is now a 29-day stalemate — which has started to weaken as more Democrats who fled to Washington last month begin shuffling back into the state Capitol, believing their point has been made as they also feel the strain of a long absence away from home.
Other Texas Democrats remain in Washington, some of whom lashed out at their former fellow holdouts who returned to the Capitol. But the group that is staying behind — which last weekend was less than half the more than 50 Democrats who originally fled to Washington — is not large enough to keep denying the Legislature a quorum.
"Since the beginning of the quorum break, I have been very honest about our options in Texas — we don't have many. This is by design," said state Rep. James Talarico, one of the Democrats who returned. "Under one-party rule: democracy suffers."
The slow return comes as Republicans in the Texas Senate are already advancing a voting bill that is similar to the one Democrats blocked last month. And in another setback for Democrats, the Texas Supreme Court on August 9, rejected their lawsuit that sought to overturn Republican Gov. Greg Abbott vetoing the paychecks of more than 2,000 legislative staffers after Democrats walked out on the voting bill the first time in May.
Abbott has said the Legislature can restore the funding in a special session. He had also threatened Democrats with arrest after they had left Texas, but those that returned did so voluntarily. The action was also all but negated Monday after a judge issued a temporary restraining order preventing Abbott and Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan from "issuing any warrant or other instrument" and "detaining, confining, or otherwise restricting a Texas House Democrat's movement without his or her consent."
For a second time this summer, Republicans on Monday authorized locking the doors of the House chamber so that lawmakers could only leave with permission. They will return Tuesday morning, which would mark four days into a 30-day special session that is now the GOP's third attempt to pass an elections overhaul.
(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
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