Texas Governor Greg Abbott announces the reopening of more Texas businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic at a press conference at the Texas State Capitol in Austin on Monday, May 18, 2020.
GOP governor threatens to arrest Democrats who left state
01:46 - Source: CNN
Washington CNN  — 

A group of Texas House Democrats who fled their state in a bid to stop restrictive voting legislation met with Democratic US Sens. Amy Klobuchar, Jeff Merkley and, Raphael Warnock on Wednesday as they press Congress to pass federal voting rights legislation.

“We’re actually handing the baton to our Senate colleagues, our Senate members, to finish this race,” Texas state House Rep. Nicole Collier told reporters following their meeting.

The Texas Democrats traveled to Washington on Monday in an effort to break the state House’s quorum and block a restrictive new voting law in the remaining days of the special legislative session called by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott. Since arriving, the group has sought meetings with members of Congress to urge them to pass federal voting rights legislation, including the sweeping For the People Act.

“I don’t know how much more clearer you could make it than have them actually come to the place. It is their only point of salvation because their governor is not going to do it for their people,” Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat and a lead sponsor of the For the People Act, said of the Texas lawmakers.

Merkley, another lead sponsor of the For the People Act, echoed that message, adding: “They haven’t come to DC by accident.”

“They have come to Washington, DC, because we have a responsibility, the Senators in this building, to set basic national standards to protect the right to vote all across this country,” the Oregon senator said.

Still, the legislative reality remains – there is currently no Senate Republican support for voting rights legislation and Democrats do not have the votes to overcome the filibuster. Last month, Republicans were successful in filibustering the For the People Act, banding together to vote against opening debate on the bill.

Calling the failed vote a “beginning,” Klobuchar maintained there are “many routes to success here.”

The effort by Democrats to pass the voting legislation comes in the aftermath of former President Donald Trump’s “Big Lie” that the 2020 presidential election was stolen and as Republican-controlled legislatures have pressed ahead with new state laws imposing limits on voting.

State lawmakers have enacted nearly 30 laws since the 2020 election that restrict ballot access, according to a June tally by the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law.

Warnock called the recent efforts to restrict voting in Texas and his home state of Georgia “a shameless unabashed assault on people’s voting rights.”

“Voting rights is not just a political issue, this is a moral issue. Because the vote in essence is really about your voice – is about sharing humanity,” he said. “So I want to thank these Texas legislators for coming up because in a real sense they are fighting for our humanity. They’re trying to make sure that the voices of the people are not squeezed out of their own democracy.”

“We Americans live in a house that democracy built,” Warnock added, “and right now that house is on fire.”