Texas Gov. Abbott to Veto Legislature Funding After Democrats Stage Walkout Over Voting Law

May 31, 2021 Updated: June 1, 2021

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said on May 31 that he’ll veto funding for the state legislature, one day after House Democrats staged a walkout of the chamber in an effort to prevent the passage of a sweeping election overhaul bill.

Texas Democrats abandoned the House floor ahead of a midnight deadline in an attempt to temporarily kill the bill by breaking the quorum needed to hold a final vote on it. According to the state House rules, at least 100 members are required to be present for the chamber to conduct business.

Their move comes after hours of debate on Senate Bill 7, which had already passed the state Senate on the morning of May 30.

In a May 31 statement, Abbott announced his intention to prevent the funding of the legislative branch, citing the actions of Democrat lawmakers the day before.

“I will veto Article 10 of the budget passed by the legislature. Article 10 funds the legislative branch. No pay for those who abandon their responsibilities. Stay tuned,” he wrote.

Following the walkout, Abbott issued a statement denouncing the move, characterizing it as “deeply disappointing and concerning.” He vowed to call a special session to revisit the bill.

“At the beginning of the legislative session, I declared Election Integrity and Bail Reform to be must-pass emergency items. It is deeply disappointing and concerning for Texans that neither reached my desk. Ensuring the integrity of our elections and reforming a broken bail system remain emergencies in Texas, which is why these items, along with other priority items, will be added to the special session agenda,” he said.

“I expect legislators to have worked out their differences prior to arriving back at the Capitol so that they can hit the ground running to pass legislation related to these emergency items and other priority legislation. During the special session, we will continue to advance policies that put the people of Texas first.”

The bill was approved in the state Senate largely along party lines after an overnight debate stretched into the morning of May 30, according to local media.

The measure would grant more power to poll watchers by giving them more access inside polling areas, while creating new penalties against election officials who restrict poll watchers’ movements. The proposal would also allow a judge to void the outcome of an election if the number of fraudulent votes could change the result.

Officials who send mail-in ballots to people who didn’t request them could also face criminal penalties, should the bill be enacted into law.

Democrats said on May 30 that the walkout was their “last tool” to kill the bill after attempts to push back on the it. The lawmakers are concerned that the bill would add voting barriers for minority groups and amount to voter suppression.

Some Texas Democrats have responded to Abbott’s announcement, characterizing the move as “petty and tone-deaf, even for Texas.”

“Punishing working class office staff, maintenance, and other support services because he didn’t get every single one of his demands is very on-brand for Texas Republicans,” state Rep. Gene Wu said in a statement.

“I don’t give a [expletive] about my $600 a month. But there are thousands of workers here with families to support. This is petty and tone-deaf, even for Texas.”

Florida and Georgia have both passed bills that add measures to protect the sanctity of the ballot box and to add security to other methods of voting. Those laws have also faced significant opposition from Democrats.

Jack Phillips contributed to this report.

Follow Janita on Twitter: @janitakan