More than 50 Democratic legislators from Texas are in the nation's capital rather than their state capital Tuesday, having fled the Lonestar State to stop the Republican-controlled legislature from passing bills the Democrats say would severely restrict the right of Texans to vote.
The legislation, which Republicans said is needed to restore public confidence in the election process, was being hustled by the GOP toward passage before the Democrats abruptly left the state Monday night, breaking quorum and thus preventing any further action on the bills.
"We are not doing this [just] for Democrats," said State Representative Rafael Anchia, a Dallas-area representative. "We’re doing this for Republicans, we’re doing this for Independents."
Texas House Democrats made a similar quorum-busting move at the end of regular session in May, killing legislation similar to what Republicans are pushing now in special session.
Anchia said they are determined to do it again.
"We are not going to buckle to the 'big lie'," said Anchia, referring to unsupported argument made by former President Trump and his supporters that the election was stolen. "That has resulted in anti-democratic legislation."
At a news conference in front of the U.S. Capitol Tuesday morning, the Texas Democrats repeated their concerns with the GOP legislation -- that it aims to restrict mail-in voting and generally make it harder, they said, for some to cast ballots.
"The Texas Secretary of State said our election was safe, secure, and successful," said Anchia in an interview following the news conference. "There’s no reason for these bills other than to secure a partisan advantage."
In a speech Tuesday afternoon in Philadelphia, President Biden echoed that concern, saying the GOP-led changes to state election laws nationwide amount to the most significant test of our democracy since the Civil War.
"The 21st century Jim Crow assault is real," said the president. "It's unrelenting, and we're going to challenge it vigorously."
That challenge, for now, comes in the form of federal legislation -- the For the People Act -- which was blocked last month in the Senate by a Republican-led filibuster.
The President, as well as the Texans, are hoping it will get a second life.
"The Congress needs to act and protect our right to vote nationwide," stated Rep. Anchia. "For Oklahomans, for Texans, for everybody."
In the meantime, the battle will continue to play out in statehouses across the country -- or wherever state lawmakers find themselves.
"We know exactly what we’re facing: an uphill battle," said El Paso Representative Claudia Ordaz Perez. "But we’re going to continue that fight--that's what we were elected to do."
In the short term, that could mean staying in Washington -- or at least somewhere outside of the Texas border -- until the special session ends in early August.