By BERENICE GARCIA and FRANCISCO E. JIMÉNEZ
Monday will mark one week since Democrats in the Texas House of Representatives broke quorum and flew to Washington D.C. in an effort to continue fighting to stop Gov. Greg Abbott and Texas Republican legislators proposed voting restrictions.
State Reps. Bobby Guerra, D-McAllen; Armando “Mando” Martinez, D-Weslaco; and Brownsville lawmakers Eddie Lucio III and Alex Dominguez, were among the legislators who made the trek to Washington.
Four Valley House Democrats did not.
“I commend them for going out there to deliver the message,” state Rep. Oscar Longoria, D-Peñitas, said of the representatives who flew to D.C.
Longoria, along with state Reps. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg; Ryan Guillen, D-Rio Grande City; and Sergio Muñoz, D-Palmview were noticeably absent from the list of Democrats who traveled to Washington.
“It was enough members that were going to be enough to put everything at a stop because there was going to be a lack of a quorum,” Longoria said while in Austin on Friday of his decision not to join the D.C. delegation. “I thank God they’re delivering the message and they’ve done a phenomenal job, but it was one of those (situations) where … there’s enough members for there not to be a quorum.”
“What I think is important is, it’s kind of at D.C.’s doorstep right now, so whatever Congress does, if they go back and pass a comprehensive voter bill, it’s entirely up to them,” Longoria said.
Canales, who is the only Democrat to chair a House committee, said he chose not to go to Washington so that he could continue face-to-face negotiations with Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, and his leadership team.
“I fully support what my colleagues are doing in Washington, and I believe that they brought a lot of light to an extremely important issue,” Canales said Saturday as he traveled back to the Rio Grande Valley from Austin. “I’m proud of the work they’ve accomplished. However, it’s my sincere belief that Washington will fail us when it comes to passing the John Lewis Voter Protection Act or any bill that resembles it.”
He added that his colleagues did not need him to break quorum because they already had the necessary numbers to accomplish that. He instead chose to continue a line of communication between his colleagues in Washington and his Republican colleagues in Austin.
“Having been intimately involved in the process from the last session up until now, I believe it was my obligation to continue those negotiations because it is my opinion that we will be back eventually facing a similar bill in maybe not this special session but the next,” Canales said.
He said that he is continuing to negotiate many of the points of contention with the bill’s author in order to try to reach an agreement.
“So that when I believe that we face the inevitable — Congress will fail us and we will be back— the negotiations never really stopped by the quorum breaking and that someone was still working towards trying to make the bill more palatable,” Canales said.
Canales added that state Reps. Longoria and Guillen have been with him on the floor since their colleagues left to Washington. Repeated attempts to reach Guillen and state Rep. Muñoz were unsuccessful.
“The fight against SB 7 is a multifront battle,” Canales said. “My colleagues in Washington are playing a very important role, however there needs to be a parallel fight and negotiation going on in their absence, and those negotiations have to be face to face.”