Texas lawmakers end weekslong boycott that blocked restrictive voting measure

The state’s House of Representatives got back to work Thursday evening after three Democrats returned to the floor.

The Texas House of Representatives got back to work Thursday evening after three members returned to the House floor — ending the boycott that paralyzed the chamber for five weeks as Democrats sought to block a sweeping elections bill from passing.

“A quorum is present,” Republican House Speaker Dade Phelan said at 6:14 p.m.

Three Houston Democrats — Reps. Armando Walle, Garnet Coleman and Ana Hernandez — said in a statement they would return to the House floor Thursday. They praised the work of Democrats in fighting for voting rights but argued that the surge of Covid infections in the state necessitated their return.

“It is time to move past these partisan legislative calls, and to come together to help our state mitigate the effects of the current COVID-19 surge,” they said in a joint statement.

Their return, combined with the 96 members who were present previously, brought House attendance to 99, the number needed to reach a quorum after a member resigned recently.

More than 50 Democratic House members fled the state July 12 to block passage of a sweeping elections bill that they decried as “Jim Crow 2.0.” They spent nearly a month in Washington, lobbying for federal voting legislation that they hoped would permanently block the changes to election law that Republicans sought to pass.

Incensed Republicans vowed to send law enforcement officers to arrest the missing Democrats when they came back to Texas this month, and Democrats went to court to try to block the arrests. In the end, no arrests were made, and Democrats trickled back in on their own.

It appeared to take some time to get all the members back to the chamber: The session was to have gaveled in at 4 p.m., and Democrats had speculated that others were missing.

After just 20 minutes — enough time for the Senate to send over the bills it had passed in the House’s absence — the speaker adjourned the session for the day. The House is next scheduled to meet Friday afternoon.

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