Texas GOP to revive voting bill, Democrats plot next move

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A "Temporarily Closed" sign blocks the entry to the House Chamber at the State Capitol, Tuesday, June 1, 2021, in Austin, Texas. The Texas Legislature closed out its regular session Monday, but are expected to return for a special session after Texas Democrats blocked one of the nation's most restrictive new voting laws with a walkout. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

AUSTIN, Texas – Texas Republicans pressed ahead with their push for tougher election laws Tuesday, vowing to ensure Democrats' weekend victory over one of the most restrictive voting measures in the country would only be temporary.

GOP Gov. Greg Abbott prepared to call lawmakers back for a special session to revive the voting measure that died when Democrats staged a dramatic walkout from the state Capitol just before the end of the legislative session Sunday night. Bolstered by GOP majorities in both the House and Senate, Abbott also was weighing whether to use the extra session to take up other top conservative priorities that had failed during the session.

That left Texas Democrats facing the aftermath of their last-minute maneuver and confronting how — or even whether — they can turn it into more than just a temporary roadblock in the GOP’s nationwide pursuit to impose tighter voting laws across the U.S.

“There are consequences,” said state Sen. John Whitmire, one of Texas’ longest-serving Democrats.

Democrats who pulled off the revolt in the state House of Representatives just before a midnight deadline Sunday did not leave indefinitely. Most were back on the House floor just 12 hours later for ceremonial business, and none are calling to boycott a special session.

They are instead betting their dramatic flight out of the Texas Capitol and to a Black church will make Republicans think twice about some provisions in the legislation — like banning early voting Sunday morning, when many Black worshippers go to the polls after services — and give them more say on the next elections bill.

But bare-knuckled Republican governing is a way of life in the Texas Capitol and no concessions are so far promised. Abbott, meanwhile, has begun both punishing and taunting Democrats while he settles on deciding on when he will order them back to work.

He said Monday he would veto the part of the budget that funds legislators' salaries, a move that could impact not just Democrats but also other Capitol staff. He then tweeted a reminder of the last time Texas Democrats dramatically blocked a bill: when then-state Sen. Wendy Davis talked for more than 11 consecutive hours in 2013 to filibuster a sweeping anti-abortion measure, which Republicans immediately revived and passed in a special session.