EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – The El Paso state delegation described a strained relationship with Republican counterparts during a Tuesday morning briefing explaining their reasons for flying to the nation’s capital.
State Rep. Mary Gonzalez told reporters partisan politics began with Republican colleagues leading up to the decision by 55 Democrats to fly to Washington D.C. in a push to stop Republican-led legislation, and advocate for voting rights. Gonzalez was accompanied by fellow El Paso representatives Lina Ortega, Joe Moody and Claudia Ordaz Perez.
On Tuesday morning, El Paso State Senator César Blanco joined eight other state Democratic Senators in also traveling to D.C.
Gonzalez said just last week, Texas residents largely spoke out against Republican-led efforts for stricter election legislation.
“The partisanship didn’t start with us,” Gonzalez said. “The partisanship started from Republican leadership who have taken very drastic measures whether its defunding an entire branch of government. To not even accepting or considering any amendments. Election legislation does not have to be partisan.”
The group said Rep. Art Fierro was on his way to the capital and aware of developments in Washington.
A rift between Democratic and Republic state legislators reached new heights late last week as the summer special session began in Austin where Texas Governor Greg Abbott and his political allies began pushing for more restrictive voting and election laws.
Other topics line the special session’s agenda including bans on abortion drugs, teaching critical race theory, restrictions on transgender athletes in public schools and money for policing and for building a wall on U.S. Mexico border.
Democratic legislators say they are aware of vows to arrest Democratic legislators who left the state and to hold continuous special sessions until bills are passed.
On Monday, Abbott called on Democratic legislators to return to Texas.
“The Democrats must put aside partisan political games and get back to the job they were elected to do,” Abbott said. “Their constituents must not be denied these important resources simply because their elected representative refused to show up to work.”
Democratic legislators say they made a last-minute decision to leave the state and head to D.C. on Monday after discussions over election-laws became more one-sided. With funds from the Texas Democratic Caucus, legislators boarded planes to the nation’s capital.
The move denies the House quorum, or the necessary amount of representatives to vote, from moving forward with proposed legislation.
El Paso State Rep. Lina Ortega said Democrats were forced to D.C. to protect Texans’ rights to vote.
“We’re going back 50 years where we thought that we had civil rights that had been established and that everyone, equally, had the right to vote,” Ortega said. “But what we see here in the state of Texas, that’s not happening. We are working hard to get our voices heard.”
State Rep. Claudia Ordaz-Perez described strained relationships with Republican legislators who largely ignored proposed amendments to legislation during the regular and special sessions. She used the 24-hour session on Sunday, which gravitated around voting, where Democratic input was voted down.
“This state takes a lot of pride in being bipartisan and not being like DC where that’s incredibly polarizing,” Ordaz-Perez said. “Unfortunately, every single amendment was not only voted down. During the last bill, they were stripped-out. So, there’s certainly an effort to work across the aisle but it can’t be only Democrats that are willing to do that.”
State Rep. Joe Moody says efforts to stop Republican-led proposals for election laws are worth it because it benefits residents in El Paso and across the state.
“We’ve got to deliver a message here, directly. And, we are going to do that,” he said. “The clear message is the clock is ticking. The clock is ticking on us in Texas.”
Texas House Republican representatives were considering a resolution to strip representatives of chairmanships and committee assignments on Tuesday, in reaction to the Democrats decision to fly to D.C.
Moody pushed-back against those efforts saying house rules don’t allow for those assignments and appointments to be removed.
“I guess the Republicans should actually read the rules of the Texas House before they start asking questions,” he said. “Democrats have always been better at knowing the rules.”