As Texas Republicans advanced a pernicious voter-suppression bill on Saturday, President Joe Biden condemned it in unambiguous terms. The proposal represented "an assault on democracy," the president said, adding, "It's wrong and un-American."
GOP legislators clearly didn't care, but Biden's assessment was more than fair. A Washington Post editorial described Texas' anti-voting plan as "the most odious anti-democratic act by a legislature this year" -- and given the flood of voter-suppression measures unveiled in recent months, the competition is fierce.
Republicans in the Lone Star State went to great lengths to craft a bill, negotiated in secret, that attacked the franchise in a multifaceted way, making it more difficult to cast absentee ballots, while curtailing early voting, banning drive-through voting, empowering partisan poll watchers, and even discouraging Texans from transporting voters to polling places. The common thread tying together nearly all of these provisions was an unsubtle attempt to make it harder for Black and Latino voters to participate in their own democracy.
What's more, Republicans also included provisions to make it easier for state judges to overturn election results, inviting future electoral crises. For all intents and purposes, the proposal was designed to move Texas away from democracy itself.
Nevertheless, because of GOP political dominance in Texas, the legislation's passage appeared to be a foregone conclusion -- right up until it failed.
Texas Democrats on Sunday night used every parliamentary tool at their disposal to effectively kill a bill that would add new restrictions to elections in the state, ultimately staging a walkout to prevent a vote from being held before a midnight deadline. [...] Senate Bill 7, known as the Election Integrity Protection Act, passed the state Senate along party lines early Sunday morning after an all-night debate. The bill came up in the state House Sunday evening for final approval. But after hours of debate and delaying tactics, the chamber adjourned after Democratic lawmakers left in protest, breaking quorum and ending debate.
Not surprisingly, Texas Republicans, who were expecting to rig democracy in their favor for the foreseeable future, were not pleased. Indeed, while the American system of government prevailed thanks to the Democratic walkout on Sunday night, GOP officials in the state made clear that the victory may have been temporary.
First, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) announced plans for a legislative special session, in which the Republican-led legislature would try to pass the same measure again.
Democratic legislators reportedly responded to the governor overnight by saying, "You wouldn't call a special session for COVID, for mass shootings, or for Hurricane Harvey, but you want one for voter suppression. We're ready to have that fight."
But Abbott also threatened to cut off funding for Texas' legislature if they continued to fight against his party's voter-suppression measure.
"I will veto Article 10 of the budget passed by the legislature. Article 10 funds the legislative branch," he wrote on Twitter yesterday. "No pay for those who abandon their responsibilities. Stay tuned."
The Republican governor has not yet set a date for the upcoming special session. Watch this space.