AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott ordered a third attempt at passing a GOP voting bill on Thursday, calling another special legislative session to begin this weekend as Democrats who left the state weeks ago in protest still remain in Washington.
The announcement was expected and comes as more than 50 Democrats — who scrambled to fly out of Texas on July 12 — were on the cusp of running out the clock on the current special session and torpedoing the sweeping voting package for a second time since May.
“I will continue to call special session after special session,” Abbott said.
He ordered the new 30-day special session to begin Saturday and made a new elections package one of 17 items he instructed the GOP-Legislature to consider, which includes other items sought by conservative activists, including new border security measures and rules over how race is taught in public school.
The cross-country exodus marked the second time that Democratic lawmakers staged a walkout on the voting overhaul, which they say would make it harder for young people, people of color and people with disabilities to vote. But like the first effort in May, there remains no clear path for Democrats to permanently block the voting measures, or a list of other contentious GOP-backed proposals up for debate.
Abbott, who is up for reelection in 2022, made the decision to begin a new session immediately, as Democrats in Washington had been weighing their next steps. They left Texas under the threat of arrest for breaking quorum in the state House of Representatives and have not committed to when — or whether — they planned to return home.
Some Democrats this week said they have no intention to return to the Texas Capitol even after they’ve returned from Washington.
“A vast majority, enough to break quorum, have committed to each other to not be in the Capitol when the second called session happens,” Democratic state Rep. Eddie Rodriguez said Wednesday.
In choosing to hunker down in Washington, Texas Democrats sought to put pressure on President Joe Biden and Congress to pass new federal voting rights legislation that would blunt the impact of the GOP bill back home. A group of key Democratic senators, including West Virginia’s Joe Manchin, met Wednesday in Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s office to discuss a compromise on voting legislation.
The group has been working for weeks with their counterparts in the U.S. House to develop a narrower approach. But even with a retooled bill, they would still face the same challenge as before: a filibuster by Senate Republicans, who overwhelmingly oppose the measure. Overcoming that hurdle would require changes to Senate procedural rules, which many moderate Democrats oppose — denying the party the votes to change the rule.
Associated Press writer Brian Slodysko in Washington contributed to this report.