Frozen on iPads and Capitol Coloring Books: How the Runaway Texas Legislators Balance Family With Work
One Texas Democrat's daughter has already caught the attention of social media
Being a parent is no simple task, but some Texas legislators are doing double duty as they fight to maintain voting rights in both their state and across the country.
More than 50 Democratic lawmakers from the Lonestar State flocked to Washington D.C. on Monday in an effort to stifle efforts by Republicans to pass election reforms they say would make it harder to vote. (Leaving Texas on chartered planes, the legislators were staging what amounted to a walkout, in order to avoid a vote on a Republican-led measure.)
Some left their children behind, while others brought their kids along with them, as a new NBC News report details.
Rep. John Bucey of Austin told the outlet on Friday that he and his wife Molly, who is 27-weeks pregnant, brought their 17-month old daughter Bradley with them on the 23-hour trek to the nation's Capitol. (Bradley is too young to wear a mask on a plane, Bucey says, so the trio drove.)
Now, set against the backdrop of a widely-watched debate on election laws, the couple has a new hurdle to overcome: childcare.
"It's really hard," he told NBC News. "There's no childcare here. My wife works. I work."
Bucey is not alone in his lack of childcare while in D.C. Fellow Austin representative Erin Zweiner has had her 3-year-old daughter, Lark, in tow while attending meetings with lawmakers regarding the For The People Act, an expansive voting-rights measure currently stalled in the Senate.
"By day 4, she's getting a little grumpy with the process … she needs some kid time," Zweiner told NBC News.
Lark has already become a social media sensation after images of her watching Frozen on an iPad during a meeting about the legislation. New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and her digital team captured the adorable moment twice this week.
"Do you wanna pass the #ForThePeopleAct?" Musical note⛄ / — Me and @ErinForYall's daughter Lark watching Frozen during this meeting," tweeted staffer Alyssa Frank on Thursday alongside a photo of Lark absorbed in the flick.
On Wednesday, Sen. Gillibrand tweeted a message of gratitude to Texas Democrats, which she paired with photos of the group featuring some adorable images of Lark with a U.S. Capitol coloring book.
"Proud to welcome Texas Democrats who left Texas to thwart a voter suppression effort to my office today. They've risked and sacrificed so much to defend our voting rights. We need to stand up and pass the #ForThePeopleAct – and we can't let the filibuster stand in our way," she wrote.
Meanwhile, back in Texas, Republican Gov. Gregg Abbott promised action upon the legislators' return during an appearance on Fox News: "Once they step back into the state they will be arrested and brought back to the Capitol and we will be conducting business."
The Governor has also accused the group of errant lawmakers of "hanging out on a taxpayer-paid junket." State Sen. Jose Menendez is one of many representatives refuting that suggestion.
"We are not here on vacation," Menendez told NBC News. "I'd much rather be home with my family. We are here to do a job."
In fact, the Democrats who left Texas for the capital have said they have no time for things like going out for dinner or visiting a museum with their families after working 16-hour days.
"I think we will get to a normal routine and a more reasonable baseline," Zweiner told NBC News, adding hopefully: "something where it's down to just 12-hour work days."
The group's goal is to hold out until the end of Texas' legislative session on Aug. 7, though Abbott has the power to call another special session after 30 days have passed. He has also threatened to withhold the pay of those who walked out.
Rep. Chris Turner of Arlington —the leader of the Texas House Democrats — said the group will help promote the For The People Act, which aims to expand and protect voting rights in the U.S., in the interim.
"Our mission here, in Washington, is to use this time in this legislative session between now and Aug. 7 to say to the U.S. Senate that we need to pass federal voting rights legislation. And we need it now," Turner said. "And we're going to get into some good trouble, as best we can, while we're doing it."