Texas Governor Threatens to Withhold Pay After Democrats Stage Walkout Over Controversial Voting Bill

"We had to act last night because #SB7 was a threat to our democracy," one state lawmaker said

Texas Governor Greg Abbott
Texas Governor Greg Abbott. Photo: Lynda M. Gonzalez-Pool/Getty

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is threatening to withhold the pay of lawmakers following a mass walkout by Democrats on Sunday over controversial Republican-backed legislation curtailing voting.

Abbott, a Republican, tweeted that he intends to withhold paychecks to state lawmakers following the exodus, which has so far prevented a final vote on a proposal widely criticized by advocates for how it restricts voting.

"I will veto Article 10 of the budget passed by the legislature. Article 10 funds the legislative branch," Abbott wrote on his personal Twitter feed on Monday. "No pay for those who abandon their responsibilities. Stay tuned."

Also on his personal account, Abbott wrote of the walkout: "The last time a stunt like this happened was ... Wendy Davis. We all know how that story ended."

Abbott was referencing former Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis, a Democrat who spent nearly 13 hours filibustering (i.e. talking without a break) in 2013 in an effort to block a vote on a bill that would have made the state's abortion restrictions some of the toughest in the nation.

Davis helped temporarily delay passage of the bill, though it was ultimately approved.

In recent months, Republicans lawmakers in Texas and across the country have increasingly worked to pass legislation changing voting and election rules — motivated in part by former President Donald Trump's lies about election fraud.

Experts have long said there is no evidence of widespread wrongdoing and Trump's efforts to overturn his own defeat were rejected by the courts and local officials, including Republicans.

Nonetheless, after Trump's reelection loss last year amid record-breaking voter turnout, The GOP has moved to put more restrictions on voting in states across the country, arguing such changes are about election security and increasing voter confidence.

According to data gathered by the nonprofit Center for New Data, measures like restricting absentee and voter registration access would overwhelmingly affect Black voters.

The Texas walkout occurred on Sunday around 10:30 p.m., and was staged by Democrats in the state House of Representatives as a way to block the vote on Senate Bill 7, also known as the Election Integrity Protection Act, which had been expected to be sent to Abbott's desk for signature.

After the lawmakers exited the chamber, the House was left without enough members to pass the legislation before a midnight deadline.

SB7 would ban 24-hour voting and drive-thru voting, which were popular with voters of color in some counties last year, according to USA Today. Among other changes, the measure would also block Sunday voting before 1 p.m., which would effectively stifle programs in Black churches that drive voters to the polls following worship services.

Following the walkout, Abbott said the bill will be added to the agenda of a special session. "Election Integrity & Bail Reform were emergency items for this legislative session. They STILL must pass," he wrote on Twitter. "Legislators will be expected to have worked out the details when they arrive at the Capitol for the special session."

Texas Democrats said they had no other option than obstruction.

"Breaking quorum is a procedural tool we don't use often in the House," state Rep. Eddie Rodriguez wrote via Twitter. "We had to act last night because #SB7 was a threat to our democracy – including procedurally, as each time it was passed was under the cover of night or w/o the input of those we are elected to serve."

Responding to Abbott's vow to withhold their paychecks, Texas state Rep. Gene Wu wrote that he "didn't give a s----" about his monthly pay (which he said in a tweet was $600 a month), but that "there are thousands of workers here with families to support."

Wu added that the governor's announcement was "petty and tone-deaf even for Texas."

"If you're worried about state legislators not doing their jobs, think about it this way: We're all allowed sick time off, no matter what job we do," Wu wrote in another tweet. "The provisions of #SB7 were so vile that it made Democrats sick to their stomachs. We all need some personal time to throw up."

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