Gov. Greg Abbott
announced Monday that he would veto a section of the state budget that funds the legislature, following a walkout by Democratic state lawmakers that successfully blocked the Republican priority bill restricting voting rights
“I will veto Article 10 of the legislature’s budget, which funds the legislative branch,” Abbott tweeted Monday afternoon.
I will veto Article 10 of the legislature's budget. Article 10 funds the legislative branch, and those who abandon their responsibilities will not be compensated. Stay tuned. — Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) May 31, 2021
In a dramatic move on Sunday night, Democratic state lawmakers walked out of the House
en masse before a midnight deadline to send the legislation to Abbott for signature. Enough Democrats
, led by state Rep. Chris Turner, left the chamber to break a 100-member quorum, preventing Senate
Bill 7 from passing.
The Texas bill would include absentee voting restrictions and empower poll watchers from political parties, among other provisions, and is similar to legislation already passed in Georgia
, significantly suppressing the right to vote of marginalized communities.
The bill would also make it easier to reverse an election, as well as prohibit drive-through voting and 24-hour polling sites, both of which were successful in Harris County during the COVID-19 pandemic
. Harris County includes Houston
, the state's largest Democratic stronghold.
The final bill also included a ban on Sunday voting before 1 p.m., which Democrats and voting rights advocates have compared to Jim Crow-era racist
“It became clear that Republicans
were going to cut off debate in order to ram through their voter suppression
legislation,” Turner told The New York
Times, adding that “at that point, we had no choice but to take extraordinary measures to protect our constituents and their right to vote.”
According to the Texas Tribune, the legislative branch is funded through the end of August under the current budget, and the budget Abbott referred to in his tweet covers the fiscal year beginning Sept. 1.
According to the Tribune, state legislators are paid $600 per month, or $7,200 per year, plus $221 for each day they are in session, including regular and special sessions. Abbott has until June 20 to carry out the veto.
“I declared Election Integrity and Bail Reform to be must-pass emergency items for this legislative session, and it is deeply disappointing and concerning for Texans
that neither will reach my desk,” Abbott said immediately following the walkout. “They will be added to the special session agenda, and legislators will be expected to have worked out the details when they arrive at the Capitol
for the special session.”
Abbott has not yet specified a date for the special session, but the New York Times reported that it could begin as early as June 1.
“Whether in a regular or special session, you can be damn sure that we’ll fight to protect the right to vote for all Texans... period,” state Rep. Rafael Ancha (D) tweeted.
You can be damn sure that we will fight to protect the right to vote for all Texans...period. #txlege pic.twitter.com/s6tcB435WI — Rafael Ancha (@RafaelAnchia) May 31, 2021
More Democratic legislators in Texas criticized Abbott's veto threat, emphasizing the governor
's anti-democratic attempt to control another branch of government. They also noted that defunding the legislature would not significantly hurt lawmakers financially, as they rely on other funds, but would severely impact support staff's income.
“Let me get this straight: he wants to defund an entire branch of government because we took steps to save our democracy
?” asked state Rep. Jarvis Johnson (D). State Rep. Donna Howard (D) said Abbott’s potential veto “would eliminate the branch of government that represents the people
and basically create a monarchy.”
If the bill is passed, it will become one of the most restrictive voting laws in the country, part of a nationwide effort by Republicans to attack
voting rights in the aftermath of former President Donald Trump
's lies that he lost the 2020 election
due to voting fraud. On Saturday, President Joe Biden
said Texas' bill is "part of an assault
According to the Brennan Center for Justice, at least 14 states
passed nearly two dozen restrictive voting laws between January 1 and May 14, and nearly 400 restrictive bills were introduced in 48 states during the 2021 legislative session.