Unable to block the measures with their votes, Democratic legislators are leaving Texas rather than see new election laws passed. "Texas House Democrats stand united in our decision to break quorum and refuse to let the Republican-led legislature force through dangerous legislation that would trample on Texans' freedom to vote," they said Monday in a statement. Enough lawmakers were leaving Monday afternoon to prevent a quorum, the Texas Tribune reports, most of them on their way to an airport to board one of two planes bound for Washington, DC. They planned to press Democratic members of Congress to approve legislation protecting voting rights. Their statement said they're calling on Congress to approve two bills "to protect Texans—and all Americans—from the Trump Republicans’ nationwide war on democracy," per Politico.
The Republican House speaker in Austin did not say specifically how the party would respond to the Democrats' absence, though he promised to use "every available resource under the Texas Constitution and the unanimously-passed House rules to secure a quorum." The rules allow the speaker to order the chamber's doors to be locked and the sergeant-at-arms to go after members who've left. But neither happened earlier this year, when Democrats walked out for the same reason. Barring a breakthrough, the Democrats will have to stay gone for weeks to miss the special session called by Gov. Greg Abbott. Vice President Kamala Harris praised the Democrats on Monday, citing their "extraordinary courage and commitment." Before leaving, the party's House members stressed the urgency to Congress. "We are living on borrowed time in Texas," their statement said. (Read more voting rights stories.)