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Democrats divided over members returning for Texas House as 34 members say they feel “betrayed and heartbroken”

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Posted at 2:46 PM, Aug 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-20 15:46:26-04

House Democrats, who were united for weeks in their efforts to stay out of the state Capitol to block a GOP voting bill, are fracturing over the recent decision of some members to rejoin the legislative session.

More than 34 Democrats signed on to a statement Friday condemning their colleagues for joining with Republicans on the House floor. Their return allowed the House to reach a quorum, meaning enough members were present so lawmakers could work for the first time in nearly six weeks.

"We are disappointed that a few Democrats chose to return to the floor. We feel betrayed and heartbroken but our resolve is strong and this fight is not over," they wrote in the statement. "With their questionable quorum, Republicans are now fully enabled and empowered to enact virtually all of [Gov. Greg] Abbott’s directives, including many dangerous pieces of legislation that will fundamentally hurt the lives of Texans."

The House reached a quorum Thursday with the help of three Democrats who broke ranks with their colleagues — Houston Democrats Garnet Coleman, Armando Walle and Ana Hernandez. The three members arrived together, with Walle pushing a wheelchair for Coleman, who recently underwent surgery on his leg.

Those three Democrats join a smattering of other Democrats who have already trickled back to the chamber after initially participating in the quorum bust — like Rep. James Talarico of Round Rock; Joe Moody, Art Fierro and Mary Gonzáles of El Paso; and Eddie Lucio III of Brownsville.

The GOP elections bill would, among other things, outlaw local voting options intended to expand voting access and bolster access for partisan poll watchers. Democrats and voting rights advocates say it restricts voting rights in the state. Republicans, who control both chambers of the Legislature, say the proposal is intended to secure “election integrity.”

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