Texas statehouse Democrats camping out in Washington, D.C., to block a GOP-backed elections overhaul bill on Tuesday broke out in song near the U.S. Capitol, vowing to “overcome” the new restrictions.
But the group reciting the spontaneous rendition of the iconic civil rights song with the aspirational promise — "We shall overcome someday. Deep in my heart, I do believe" — and a more-than half century history didn’t get the words quite right.
Instead, they sang “we will overcome,” video showed.
The tactic to leave Texas on Monday was a bid by Democrats to deprive the Texas state Legislature of a quorum — the minimum number of representatives who have to be present for the body to operate. Without that, they can't vote on the voting proposal — or other GOP-backed bills.
They’ve also drawn attention to the push to tighten Texas voting laws just as some Democrats in Congress hope sweeping elections bill making it easier to register and vote nationwide.
The get-out-town tactic has plenty of precedent.
In 2003, 50 Democratic Texas state lawmakers bolted to Oklahoma to block a Republican redistricting proposal that would cost Democrats five seats in the House of Representatives.
Then-GOP Gov. Rick Perry had called a special session. Democrats fled again, this time to New Mexico, but eventually came back and the redistricting plan passed.
Democrats already pulled off a win against GOP Gov. Greg Abbott with a walkout last month after Republicans who control the legislature tried to rush a revised elections bill through at the final hour, and the bill died.
But Abbott called them back last week for a special session and this one lasts a month — making it harder to run out the clock.
Abbott has already docked lawmakers' pay, and said Monday he would continue to call special sessions, until Democrats relent. He also said Tuesday the lawmakers would be arrested once they return.
He’s also been making his own case, telling Fox News, Democrats are “running away from a fight,” calling it a “most un-Texan thing to do.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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