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Texas Democrats Leave the State in an Effort to Block GOP-Backed Voting Restrictions

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Update 7/13/21 1:00 PM:

Texas Republicans have voted to send law enforcement to find and arrest Texas Democrats who left the state.  Chairman of the House Administration Committee, Rep. Will Metcalf, R-Conroe, moved to issue a “call of the House” in an attempt to regain quorum. The motion passed 76-4 and was followed by another motion requesting the “sergeant at arms, or officers appointed by him, send for all absentees … under warrant of arrest if necessary.” That motion also passed 76-4, the four representing the four Texas Democrats who were present, Reps. Ryan Guillen of Rio Grande City, Tracy King of Batesville, Eddie Morales Jr. of Eagle Pass, and John Turner of Dallas. This comes after Gov. Abbott threatened to do the same and also stated those who left should be removed from their committee leadership positions.  A motion was proposed to remove the missing representatives but did not get a passing vote and some representatives said they cannot be removed based on current chamber rules.

 

Original 7/13/21 13:30 AM:

What We Know:

On Monday, Texas Democrats left the state to stop restrictive voting bills from being pushed out by state Republicans.

  • Texas Democratic House of Representatives took charter jets and landed at Dulles International Airport on Monday evening. At least 51 members were said to be on the flights, with about seven members arriving later. They left the state with hopes to “deny Republicans the quorum needed to conduct business in the chamber.” Per House rules, two-thirds of the 150 members have to be present in order to conduct business, such as passing new bills.

  • State Democrats want Congress to pass federal legislation that will stop the changes that the state Republicans are forcing with House Bill 3. This bill is similar to the one that was proposed back in May that prompted Democrats to stage a walkout. Due to the walkout that included 62 Democrats, Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX) had to move the bill to the current special session. Democrats then tried passing their “For the People Act” as a response to bills forcing stricter voting laws but fell short of the 60 votes needed to pass it.
  • According to NBC News, House Bill 3, as well as the Senate Bill 1, “would add identification requirements for mail voting, ban some early voting options, create criminal penalties for breaking election codes, and empower partisan poll watchers.” These requirements would ultimately affect people of color and those disabled who live in the state, increasing the chances of Democratic votes in the area to decrease.
  • Democratic Rep. Gina Hinojosa, daughter of Texas Democratic Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa, claimed that this move by Republicans is centered around former President Donald Trump’s voter fraud claim regarding the 2020 election. Many states that Trump lost in the election are pushing the need for harsher voting laws. Georgia and Arizona, along with Texas which he won, have the highest number of restrictive bills they want to pass and Republicans hold the majority in all three state legislatures.
  • Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer (D-TX) stated that “democracy is on the line” and he didn’t see any chance of both parties negotiating over the bill. He believes that Republicans are “hellbent on having it their way.” Abbott criticized the representatives that left and said that they are inflicting harm on the people of Texas who voted for them.

“Texas Democrats’ decision to break a quorum of the Texas Legislature and abandon the Texas State Capitol inflicts harm on the very Texans who elected them to serve! As they fly across the country on cushy private planes, they leave undone issues that can help their districts and our state,” said Abbott.

  • Democratic leaders released a joint statement standing by their actions. They also held a press conference this morning expressing their refusal to let the Republican-led legislature enforce legislation they deem dangerous and would cause harm to Texan’s freedom to vote. Democrats hope this move will cause Republicans to finally sit down with them and develop a compromise over the voting bill. Democrats also believe Republicans are pushing these new laws because they are scared of losing their position in power.

“Republicans are attacking our voting rights for one reason: they know their days in power are numbered, so they’re trying to cling to power the only way they can — by stopping us from voting. Texas Democrats have stood strong in the face of these attacks all year, and we will not let up. We will keep holding the line for our democracy and the voice of every single Texan,” said Gilberto Hinojosa.

  • Many applauded the move made by the Texas Democrats. Vice President Kamala Harris said that the group showed “extraordinary courage and commitment.” She believes they are moving down the path that many who fought for voting rights, also went down. Harris called the act of fighting for voting rights “American as apple pie.”
  • Breaking quorum is extremely rare in the country. Senate Democrats broke quorum in 2003 over a redistricting policy, but the policy was passed months later. In order to block voting on the new legislation, Democrats will have to stay away from the state until the special session ends, which could take up to 30 days. The session began on Thursday, which means Democrats may not return back to the state until next month.

Per Texas Constitution, since the legislature needs two-thirds of lawmakers present in chambers, those not in attendance can be arrested and forced back to the state. The House is scheduled to meet on Tuesday. The Department of Public Safety and state Republican leaders may be prompted to assist in the quick return of the Democratic lawmakers.

Article contributed to by Danita Gibbs and Tiffanie Lanelle

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Headlines

Senate Prepares to Move Forward with Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill

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On Monday, the Senate pushed to pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill just hours after its legislative language was completed and unveiled. Senators who created the proposal expect it to clear the upper chamber in the following days.

What We Know:

  • Senate negotiators completed the 2,702-page bill on Sunday night. The bill, known as H.R. 3684, aims to provide $550 billion to fund the nation’s roads, bridges, railways, and public transit systems.
  • Since then, the Senate began taking up two amendments to the proposal. In addition, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer previewed three bipartisan amendments for consideration. Currently, it is uncertain how many amendments the Senate will consider. However, Schumer wants to vote on amendments quickly; he also noted that the first three “constitute only the first tranche of potential amendments.”
  • Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell commented that H.R. 3684’s text lays out “a good and important jumping point for what needs to be a robust and bipartisan process” on the Senate floor. McConnell added that an “artificial timetable” must not affect the Senate’s “full consideration” of the bill.
  • On July 28, the bipartisan group of Senators and the White House reached an agreement on H.R. 3684’s details. Officials also voted 66-28 on the deal, which opened the package to potential changes during the amendment process. After this, Senators worked throughout the weekend to hammer out the legislative language.
  • If the Senate passes H.R. 3684, it will be a significant victory for President Joe Biden. A key proposal in his economic agenda, Biden boasted on the impact H.R. 3684 will hold on the nation. On Sunday, he tweeted that the deal is the most important investment in America’s public transit history. He additionally stated the bill will impact the U.S. just as much as the invention of the Amtrak 50 years ago.

If Congress approves H.R. 3684, it will ensure that Democrats may begin work on a $3.5 trillion proposal that focuses on Biden’s plans for childcare, healthcare, education, the environment, and possibly immigration. Doing so will ensure another success on Pres. Biden’s behalf.

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Coronavirus

Florida Breaks Record for COVID-19 Hospitalizations

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Florida recently saw 10,207 hospitalizations caused by coronavirus cases, the highest number since July 23, 2020.

What We Know:

  • On July 23, 2020, Florida reached a high of 10,170 hospitalizations, just six months before the COVID-19 vaccine became available. The new record makes Florida the leader in per capita hospitalizations for the virus.
  • Most of the new cases come from the highly contagious Delta variant. On average, Florida sees 1,525 adult and 35 children hospitalizations daily. In addition, Saturday revealed a peak in positive numbers, as the stated reported  21,683 occurrences of COVID-19. The day prior, the Sunshine State saw 17,093 cases.
  • Many hospital employees believed the excess hospitalizations would end soon because of an increase in vaccinations. However, the Delta variant changed all this. The Associated Press wrote that several hospitals, including the Mayo Clinic Florida and the UF Health North emergency room, needed to operate overcapacity and put beds in hallways to treat patients; the Mayo Clinic will continue to do so until the current surge ends. In Tampa, some local ambulances already needed to divert ambulances to other locations because of capacity concerns.
  • The higher numbers also are a direct result of a loosening of restrictions and a governor’s stubbornness. Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis actively declares he will not enact any more mask mandates and vaccine requirements. Along with the state Legislature, this makes it difficult for local officials to impose restrictions that will ease the positive numbers.
  • Medical officials scorned DeSantis for his adamance on the issue. Dr. Bernard Ashby, a Miami-based vascular cardiologist and Florida State Lead for the Committee to Protect Health Care, commented that the state would not be in its position now if DeSantis focused more on lowering cases than proving Dr. Anthony Fauci wrong. Gainesville infectious disease expert Dr. Frederick Southwick agreed with Ashby’s statement, saying that DeSantis needed to stop acting like “Florida won the pandemic.”

DeSantis recently announced that Florida would resist any federal authorities’ campaigns to enforce mask mandates inside schools despite the criticism.

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Headlines

NY Attorney General: Gov. Cuomo harassed women, tried to retaliate against accuser

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NEW YORK — Attorney General Letitia James on Tuesday announced the findings of her inquiry into accusations against Andrew Cuomo, concluding that the governor sexually harassed multiple women. James said victims included current and former employees, and that Cuomo tried to retaliate against at least one woman who came forward. Over 179 people were interviewed.

This is a breaking news story and will be updated.

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