Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Monday that he would veto a section of the state budget that funds the legislature, after a walkout by Democratic state lawmakers successfully blocked the Republican’s priority bill restricting voting rights.
“I will veto Article 10 of the budget passed by the legislature. Article 10 funds the legislative branch,” Abbott tweeted Monday afternoon. “No pay for those who abandon their responsibilities.”
In a dramatic move on Sunday night, Democratic state lawmakers blocked an extremely restrictive voting bill by walking out of the House en masse before a midnight deadline to send the legislation to Abbott to sign. Enough Democrats ― led by state Rep. Chris Turner ― left the chamber to break a 100-member quorum, stopping the passage of Senate Bill 7.
The bill is similar to legislation Georgia and Florida already passed, significantly suppressing marginalized communities’ right to vote. Among other provisions, the Texas bill would include absentee voting restrictions and empower poll watchers from political parties.
The bill would also make it easier to overturn an election, and ban drive-through voting and 24-hour polling sites ― both of which were successful in Harris County during the COVID-19 pandemic. Harris County includes Houston, the state’s largest Democratic stronghold.
The final bill also included a ban on Sunday voting before 1 p.m., in what is considered an attack on “Souls to the Poll” ― a get-out-the-vote campaign that Black church congregations use nationwide. Democrats and voting rights advocates have compared the legislation to Jim Crow-era racist voting laws.
“It became obvious Republicans were going to cut off debate to ram through their voter suppression legislation,” Turner told The New York Times. “At that point, we had no choice but to take extraordinary measures to protect our constituents and their right to vote.”
Abbott’s tweet on Monday threatening lawmakers’ salaries references Article X, which, in addition to paying lawmakers and staff, also funds legislative agencies like the Legislative Budget Board. The legislative branch is funded through the end of August under the current budget, according to the Texas Tribune, and the budget Abbott referred to in his tweet covers the fiscal year beginning Sept. 1.
State lawmakers are paid $600 a month, amounting to $7,200 per year. They also get $221 for every day they are in session, including both regular and special sessions, according to the Tribune. Abbott has until June 20 to carry out the veto.
“I declared Election Integrity and Bail Reform to be must-pass emergency items for this legislative session. It is deeply disappointing and concerning for Texans that neither will reach my desk,” Abbott said right after the walkout. “They will be added to the special session agenda. Legislators will be expected to have worked out the details when they arrive at the Capitol for the special session.”
Abbott has not yet given a date for the special session, but the Times reported it could start as early as June 1.
“Whether in a regular or special session, you can be damn sure that we’re going to fight to protect the right to vote for all Texans ... period,” state Rep. Rafael Anchía (D) tweeted.
More Democratic legislators in Texas criticized Abbott’s veto threat, highlighting the anti-democratic nature of the governor’s attempt to control another branch of government. They also pointed out that defunding the legislature would not significantly hurt lawmakers financially ― as they rely on other money ― as much as it would severely impact support staff’s income.
“Let’s get this straight, he wants to defund an entire branch of government because we took steps to save our democracy?” tweeted state Rep. Jarvis Johnson (D). State Rep. Donna Howard (D) tweeted that Abbott’s potential veto “would eliminate the branch of government that represents the people and basically create a monarchy.”
If the bill ultimately passes, it would become one of the country’s most restrictive voting laws ― an ongoing nationwide effort by Republicans to attack voting rights following former President Donald Trump’s lies that he lost the 2020 election due to voting fraud. On Saturday, President Joe Biden said Texas’ bill joins the other states’ new laws in being “part of an assault on democracy.”
Between Jan. 1 and May 14, at least 14 states have passed nearly two dozen restrictive voting laws, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. The center has counted nearly 400 restrictive bills in 48 states introduced in the 2021 legislative session.