What’s a few thousand bucks between Democrats?
Dozens of Democratic state lawmakers from Texas have skipped out on a special legislative session in order to break a quorum and stall Republican efforts to fast track new election integrity bills, which critics on the left claim amount to voter suppression.Simply crossing state lines into Oklahoma or Louisiana would have cost less in travel and lodgings – compared to what the lawmakers are expected to be spending in the nation’s capital between Monday and Aug. 7.
There are 3-star Courtyard by Marriott hotels in Washington, Oklahoma City and New Orleans. Fox News reviewed pricing at the hotels in each city.
A D.C. stay begins at $149 a night. A similar room in New Orleans costs $97. It would be $104 in Oklahoma City. Comparable Hyatt rooms cost around the same in New Orleans and Oklahoma City – and begin at $199 in the nation’s capital.
Meanwhile, a flight from Austin to Washington could cost at least $236 round trip, on short notice, according to Google Flights – more than the $209 to Oklahoma City and $185 to New Orleans. And the shorter the flight, the shorter the carbon footprint.
But being in Washington is also helping the absentee state lawmakers lobby for the Democrat-backed voting legislation currently stalled in Congress, the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. Those bills would outlaw the type of rules Texas Republicans are trying to pass. Despite Democratic majorities in the House and Senate, they can’t pass them because of the filibuster.
Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott defended the GOP bill as a move to expand early voting and prevent mail-in ballot fraud.
“Texas is making it EASIER to vote & harder to cheat,” he tweeted Tuesday.
The Texas Democrats did not immediately respond to Fox News requests for comment.
Although the group has promised not to spend any taxpayer money on the trip, the lawmakers are still being paid a $221 daily per diem because the state Legislature is technically in session, Fox News reported earlier.
But actual costs for the cross-country excursion are coming from campaign coffers and out of the lawmakers’ own pockets, they have said.
Former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s PAC, Powered By People, has also raised north of $430,000 to help out, no strings attached, the Houston Chronicle reported Wednesday. That’s up from the $142,000 O’Rourke said he’d raised Monday.
“Up to them to use it for whatever keeps them in the fight for as long as it takes,” he told the paper.
Country legend Willie Nelson and his wife even donated $5,000, according to a video shared on O’Rourke’s Twitter.
The group of lawmakers has been praised by the left for taking a stand and mocked by the right for dramatizing the trip and shirking the responsibilities that come with holding public office.
Texas Democratic state Rep. James Talarico tweeted earlier that the group of AWOL legislators “left behind our families, our livelihoods & our beloved Texas.”
Republican Congressman Dan Crenshaw scoffed in response.
“Hard to imagine a more delusional group of people – thinking that lying about these [election integrity] bills, hopping on a chartered flight, sipping beer, and skipping work is ‘sacrifice,’” he wrote. “You guys are pathetic.”
The renegade Democrats didn’t all travel together – some took commercial flights and at least one, state Rep. John Bucy III, made the 23-hour drive. Others hopped on chartered flights paid for by the House Democratic Caucus.
But while they’re out of state, Texas Republicans, who control both chambers of the state Legislature, don’t have the required quorum, or the minimum number of lawmakers present, to pass new legislation.
The GOP says its election reforms are aimed at improving election integrity and preserving state’s rights, while Democrats argue the bills would suppress Democratic voters – especially minorities.
Undeterred, Gov. Abbott has promised to continue calling special legislative sessions until the Democrats get back to work. And state Republicans have called for the absentee Democrats to be arrested if necessary.