Texas lawmakers end weeks-long boycott that blocked restrictive voting measure

The Texas House of Representatives got back to work on Thursday evening, after three members returned to the House floor — ending the boycott that paralyzed the chamber for five weeks as Democrats sought to block a sweeping elections bill from passing.

“A quorum is present,” House Speaker Dade Phelan said at 6:14 p.m. local time.

Three Houston Democrats — state Reps. Armando Walle, Garnet Coleman, and Ana Hernandez — announced in a statement they would return to the House floor on Thursday, praising the work of Democrats in fighting for voting rights but arguing that the surge of Covid infections in the state necessitated their return.

“It is time to move past these partisan legislative calls, and to come together to help our state mitigate the effects of the current COVID-19 surge,” they said in a joint statement.

Their return, combined with the 96 members who were present previously, brought House attendance up to 99, which is the number currently needed to reach quorum following a recent member resignation.

More than 50 Democratic members of the House of Representatives fled the state on July 12 to block passage of a sweeping elections bill they decried as “Jim Crow 2.0.” They spent nearly a month in Washington, lobbying for federal voting legislation they hoped would permanently block the changes to election law that Republicans sought to pass.

Incensed Republicans vowed to send law enforcement to arrest the missing Democrats when they came back to Texas earlier this month, and Democrats went to court to try and block the arrests. But in the end, no arrests were made and Democrats trickled back in on their own.

It appeared to take some time to get all the members back to the chamber: the session was to have gaveled in at 4 p.m. local time, and Democrats had speculated that others were now missing.

After just 20 minutes in session — enough time for the Senate to send over the bills they’d passed in the House’s absence — the speaker adjourned the session for the day. They are next scheduled to meet tomorrow afternoon.

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