On June 18, Texas Governor Gregg Abbott, as he had previously warned, vetoed part of a bill that funds the state legislature in response to a strike organized by Democrats last month. The Democrats walked exited the House to block an election reform bill about which they disagreed.
On May 30, Republican lawmakers in Texas were on the verge of passing a sweeping election bill that would further some of the most substantial voting restrictions in the country, and Democrats who opposed it staged a walkout to prevent the quorum needed to bring it to a vote.
“We were determined to kill this bill any way we could,” said Texas House Democratic Caucus Chairman Chris Turner, who orchestrated the attempt.
House Bill 7 passed through the upper chamber of the state Senate and then moved to the Texas House of Representatives for a vote before reaching Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk for his signature. The Republican Party currently holds an 83-67 majority, meaning it was almost certain that the bill would pass.
Faced with a desperate attempt to block the bill’s passage, Democrats resorted to leaving the House collectively before the final voting session began.
The New York Post reported that Turner led the tactic by sending a message to party members at 10:35 p.m. local time that read, “Members, take your key and leave the chamber quietly. Don’t go to the gallery. Leave the building.”
The attitude labeled as “cowardice” of the Democrats who did not fulfill their role as legislators were rejected from the beginning by the Republicans present and especially by Governor Abbott. Abbott rejected the measure and warned that he would take action on the matter with sanctions to cancel the payments of those who do not properly perform their work.
The day after the scandal, state Governor Greg Abbott responded by warning lawmakers by suspending payments.
“I will veto Article 10 of the budget passed by the legislature. Article 10 funds the legislative branch. No pay for those who abandon their responsibilities. Stay tuned.” Abbott said in a statement posted on Twitter.
Three weeks later, Abbott followed through on his warning and released a statement reporting he had vetoed the section of the state budget that funds the Texas Legislature, its staff, and legislative agencies.
Abbott said that “funding should not be provided for those who quit their job early, leaving their state with unfinished business and exposing taxpayers to higher costs for an additional legislative session.”
The unprecedented move generated criticism from affected Democrats, as expected. Meanwhile, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, who chairs Senate hearings, expressed support for Abbott’s proposed veto and said the measure could force Democrats to return for a special session.
Patrick also mentioned that Abbott’s veto affects the fiscal year budget that begins in September. If lawmakers return to the floor for a special session before then, they could pass a supplemental budget to restore those funds.