Texas Democrats shouldn't expect to get away with thwarting Republican efforts to reform election law in the state, Gov. Greg Abbott tells Newsmax, explaining that he will just keep calling special legislative sessions until they give in.
House Republicans voted Tuesday to have Democrats arrested if necessary and brought to the state Capitol. No legislation can be considered without a quorum present, so Democrats fled the state for Washington, D.C., where they have been meeting with national Democratic leaders fighting GOP election reform efforts.
The Democrats plan to wait out the 30-day special session called by Abbott to consider the legislation, thus killing it. But Abbott, appearing Tuesday on "Greg Kelly Reports," said their tactic won't work.
"If they don't come back within that 30 days, I'll call another special session," Abbott said. "If they don't come back during those 30 days, I call another special session. I'll keep calling special sessions all the way until the election next year."
The Democrats will have to come back to the state eventually, he said, where they will be in the jurisdiction of Texas law enforcement that can take them into custody and take them to their legislative jobs.
"They're going to have to face up to what the voters put them in office to do, and that is to show up," Abbott said, noting that the legislators are continuing to be paid even though they aren't showing up for work.
"If you didn't show up for your job, would you get a paycheck?" he asked host Greg Kelly. "And yet they are still getting a paycheck from the taxpayers of the state of Texas. That is wrong, and the taxpayers of Texas are going to get mighty upset about this."
Texas Democrats have used the tactic previously with redistricting.
Abbott also defended the changes in the law that Democrats and other critics have attacked including early voting and drive-through voting.
"Texas is actually increasing the number of hours of early voting, not decreasing it," Abbott said. "In Texas, we have at least 12 days of early voting with longer hours under the proposal that we're offering up."
President Joe Biden has called Texas' reform efforts "un-American," but Abbott noted that Biden's home state of Delaware has zero days of early voting.
As for 24-hour, and drive-through voting, Abbott explained it was a strategy used for the first time in 2020 by a single county, Harris County, where Houston is located.
"As you probably know, Article One, Section 4 of the United States Constitution provides that states — not counties — have the authority to come up with the time, place and manner of elections," Abbott said, "and Harris county violated the United States Constitution when they imposed 24-hour voting and drive-through voting that never had been done instead of Texas before."
Texas is among several Republican-led states pursuing new voting restrictions in the name of enhancing election security.
On Sunday, Texas House and Senate committees passed new versions of the voting measures, which would prohibit drive-through and 24-hour voting locations, add new identification requirements to mail-in voting and empower partisan poll watchers.
The Texas Senate passed its version of the voting legislation on Tuesday. But the Democratic lawmakers' exodus from the House has brought work there to a halt, with the departed Democrats vowing to stay in Washington indefinitely.
"Our intent is to stay out and kill this bill this session," Texas House Democratic Caucus Chairman Chris Turner told a news conference outside the U.S. Capitol, where dozens of Texas Democratic lawmakers broke into the civil rights anthem, "We Shall Overcome."
Special legislative sessions can last up to 30 days in Texas, meaning the current session must end by Aug. 7. There is no limit to how many special sessions a governor can call.
Texas state Representative Alex Dominguez said he was prepared to stay away from Texas even if Abbott continues to call special sessions after the current one ends. Dominguez said he was not deterred by the threat of arrest.
"If that's what they choose to do, then we'll be ready," Dominguez said.
Abbott called the special session after Democratic lawmakers staged a walkout on May 30, just before the regular session ended, to boycott a vote on an earlier version of the voting legislation.
Turner said the Texas lawmakers would use their time in Washington "to implore the folks in this building behind us to pass federal voting rights legislation."
Information for Reuters was used in this report.
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