Texas Democrats have fled their state in an extraordinary effort to block the Republicans from enacting new voting restrictions in the state.
Several Democratic members of the state House of Representatives made their way to the airport in D.C. and as many as 58 Democrats are expected to be at the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday. They have said they will not return to Texas until August when the session ends.
The lawmakers urged Congress to quickly pass federal legislation to protect voting rights.
“Our democracy is on the line,” state Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer told NBC News. “It became very clear to us that this weekend that any attempts to negotiate some Democratic concessions were cut off, making it very clear that Republicans were hellbent on having it their way.”
According to the Texas Constitution, the Legislature requires a quorum of two-thirds of lawmakers to be present to conduct state business in either chamber. The Democrats say they expect Republicans to try and track them down, forcing them to return to the state.
Republican Gov. Greg Abbott slammed the move as a dereliction of duty.
“Texas Democrats’ decision to break a quorum of the Texas Legislature and abandon the Texas State Capitol inflicts harm on the very Texans who elected them to serve,” Abbott said in statement. “As they fly across the country on cushy private planes, they leave undone issues that can help their districts and our state.”
This isn’t the first time the Texas Democrats have staged a walkout. Back in May, they walked out during regular legislative session that ended in May, forcing the GOP to adjourn without passing a voting bill.
“We do need federal legislation now, so Texas Democrats are taking on immense risk to try and push that forward and keep this awful voter suppression legislation from becoming law,” she said in an interview Monday afternoon,” Carisa Lopez said.