AUSTIN, Texas — In this edition of Texas This Week, Gov. Greg Abbott issued two executive orders that garnered national pushback. And the Texas House Democrats in Washington, D.C., believe they're making progress in their fight for federal voting rights legislation.
Three Things To Know In Texas Politics
1. Gov. Abbott Issues New COVID-19 Executive Order
On Thursday, President Joe Biden laid out his next move to try to get more Americans vaccinated against COVID-19 as the more contagious delta variant spreads across the nation. The federal government is now requiring federal employees and contractors to get the shot or submit to weekly testing, mask wearing and limited travel. Also on Thursday though, Gov. Greg Abbott issued a new executive order on the coronavirus, doubling down on his message that prevention is a personal responsibility, and the time for government mandates is over. Among other things, the governor's order states:
- Government entities can't compel people to get a COVID-19 vaccine that is under emergency use authorization, which all of the vaccines currently available are.
- Cities, states and counties can't require people to show their vaccination status in order to receive a service or enter a place.
- Any public or private entity that gets state funds can't require proof of vaccination with some exceptions for nursing homes, jails and hospitals.
2. DOJ Sues State of Texas For Border-Related Executive Order
The State of Texas is now on the other end of a lawsuit from the U.S. Department of Justice stemming from another executive order issued by the governor this week. Gov. Greg Abbott's Executive Order GA-37 bans anyone who is not law enforcement from giving rides to migrants who unlawfully cross the Texas-Mexico border and requires DPS troopers to stop any vehicle they think could be violating his order. Abbott said this will address the "dramatic rise" of COVID-19 cases in migrants. U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland sent Texas A.G. Ken Paxton a letter urging him to immediately rescind the order the day after it was issued. Garland wrote the order is "dangerous and unlawful" and stated it violated federal law "in numerous respects." Gov. Abbott, an attorney himself and the former Attorney General of Texas, sent a letter back letting the DOJ know he would not rescind the order. Next came the lawsuit: the DOJ is suing Texas. Paxton has vowed to defend the order in court.
3. 27-Mile Voting Rights March in Texas
Former Texas Congressman and Presidential Candidate Beto O'Rourke's voter outreach organization Powered by People teamed up with Rev. William Barber and the Poor People's Campaign to organize a 27-mile march for voting rights in Texas. People from all across the country and world walked from Georgetown to the Texas Capitol in Austin over four days. Saturday, it concluded with a rally featuring country-music legend Willie Nelson. The group wants federal lawmakers to pass voting rights legislation and is hoping to stop the Texas GOP from passing an election reform bill they say will suppress voters.
Texas House Democrats Testify On Voting Rights
The Texas House Democrats who broke quorum, traveling to Washington, D.C., to try to stop the Republican-backed election reform bill from becoming law, said they saw some progress this week. Members of the U.S. Senate are signaling they may reach a deal on voting rights legislation, and members of the Texas House were invited to testify to the U.S. House Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Civil Liberties about voting rights in Texas.
Here are some highlights from the hearing:
U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin, (D-Maryland):
"The struggle for the right to vote has been a struggle against all political parties in our history, and nobody has clean hands here when you look at it historically. The question is whether we are willing to commit ourselves to a struggle that extends the right to vote for everyone. It's not a partisan question. It's a question about small-d democracy for everybody. So earlier this year, legislators in Texas unveiled perhaps the most aggressive set of proposals for voting restrictions anywhere in the country."
U.S. Rep. Pete Session, (R-Texas):
"Today, in essence, we're allowing and coddling people who should be at work in the State of Texas, their constitutional duties, and yet we're treating them as hometown heroes in Washington, D.C."
State Rep. Senfronia Thompson, (D-Houston):
"You damn right I left Texas, and I'm glad I did. And you know why, Pete, I left them? I left Texas to give my people a right to vote without them being infringed upon. I had a chance to vote during 2010 and 2012, when poll watchers came to my precinct where I vote personally, let me tell you the chilling effect of that. They had people, Chairman Raskin, that looked like they were from the proud boys walk and look at you like you were in the wrong place. In a minority area, that has a chilling effect. That chilling effect is depression of voting. I don't know what you call intimidation, but intimidation by any other name is still intimidation. It's intimidating, and the word gets out that these people are at your polls looking at you like they want to arrest you, keep you from voting. And people, as a result of that, do not go and cast their vote."
State Rep. Nicole Collier, (D-Fort Worth):
"I just want to talk about one of the provisions in the bill. Miss T, and forgive me, say for instance, you registered to vote 20 years ago. There's a provision in this bill that would require someone who is eligible to vote by mail to insert the last four digits of the driver's license or Social Security number or say they don't have one. Now Miss T may have registered 20 years ago. She may not remember which one she provided when she originally registered to vote. Under the provisions of this bill, if she put down the other number, even though it's the correct one, her ballot would be rejected. And there's no cure opportunity within this bill to cure her ballot, and she would not even know that her ballot had been rejected."
State Rep. Travis Clardy (R- Nacogdoches):
"Let me say this to my Democratic colleagues there with you today, it's time to come home. Enough is enough. You've had your fun. It's time to get back to work."
"House Bill 3 expands voting time from current law of 7 to 7 to 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., an increase of four hours per day. Further, employers are required to allow employees to vote or face criminal sanctions."
"Poll watchers cannot intimidate voters. This bill does not permit voter intimidation and observers cannot watch a voter actually cast his or her ballot, nor can they film election activity."
You can watch the full hearing here:
The Last Word
In this edition of The Last Word, Ashley reminds us of the old adage, if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all.
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