Joe Biden, Kamala Harris Set to Meet with Texas Democrats in D.C. Avoiding Special Session

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, who have spent weeks advocating for broad federal voting rights measures, plan to meet in the coming days with dozens of Texas lawmakers who have fled their state to avoid a special session on new voting restrictions.

"The Texas legislation is part of a concerted attack on our democracy that's being advanced in statehouses across the country on the basis of the same repeatedly disproven lies that led to the assault on our nation's Capitol on January 6," White House deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Tuesday. "The fact of the matter is that the Texas legislation would make it harder to vote in a state where it is already too hard for many to vote."

A wave of voting laws has swept the country following the 2020 presidential election that former President Donald Trump has baselessly claimed was stolen from him. Trump's refusal to concede the election and repeated unfounded assertions that the election was marred by fraud prompted his supporters to organize a "stop the steal" rally that ultimately led a mob to storm the U.S. Capitol on January 6 to disrupt the election certification.

Texas Democrats seek support for voting rights
Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have pledged to meet with Texas Democrats who've come to D.C. to block a voting restrictions bill. The Texas Democrats are seen here arriving at a news conference outside the U.S. Capitol on July 13, 2021. Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Texas House Democrats are in Washington indefinitely to thwart the three-week special session called by Governor Greg Abbott by blocking the Republican-controlled Legislature from having a quorum that's needed to consider the proposed voting restrictions. Republicans have defended the measure as attempting to fortify voter integrity. It would limit opportunities for absentee voting and roll back several measures that Texas approved during the coronavirus pandemic, including drive-thru voting opportunities that were embraced in districts with large minority populations.

Abbott and other Republican leaders have vowed that the Democratic lawmakers who fled Austin will be arrested for the dodge when they return to the state.

"As soon as they come back in the state of Texas, they will be arrested, they will be cabined inside the Texas Capitol until they get their job done," Abbott told the Texas-based KVUE television station in an interview this week.

The more than 50 state legislators chartered private planes to flee the state Monday night—just hours before the session was set to begin. They held a news conference at the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday, urging Congress to pass two sweeping measures meant to prevent states from adopting the new restrictions and restore federal oversight to prevent voter discrimination tactics. Biden is speaking in Pennsylvania this week in favor of the voting measures and has tasked Harris with advocating for them on Capitol Hill.

Texas Representative Rafael Anchia, a Democrat from Dallas who chairs the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, told reporters that the state lawmakers unsuccessfully tried to negotiate bipartisan legislation with their GOP colleagues before leaving Texas.

"When you start the process in such a coercive way, when you say, 'I am going to be the absolute ruler of the state of Texas and defund the legislative branch,' you have poisoned the entire process," Anchia said.

He also pushed back on the idea that Texas' elections have been harmed through voter fraud or rigging.

"We are not going to buckle to the 'big lie' in the state of Texas—the 'big lie' that has resulted in anti-democratic legislation throughout the United States," he said. "We said 'no' when the 'big lie' came to the Capitol in Texas."