Sheltered in a downtown D.C. hotel, the Democratic lawmakers who left Texas to block a restrictive voting bill are living a life of stress and scrutiny. After bolting the state Monday in order to sabotage the bill by denying a quorum in the Texas House of Representatives, the more than 50 state legislators find themselves balancing a punishing schedule of political lobbying, outside work and family obligations, all under a national spotlight.
Many have left young children behind; most have other professional obligations back in Texas. All seem to be operating on minimal sleep. “It’s surreal,” said Rep. Gene Wu of Houston. “I can’t even describe to you how weird it has been.” Wu said he realized just how big a story their exodus had become when they arrived via private plane at Dulles airport on Monday. He overheard a group of German tourists talking in the airport about the fugitive Texas legislators.
Their goal is to hold out until the end of their special legislative session on Aug. 7, but Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott can call another special session 30 days after that. Abbott has also threatened the legislators with arrest the moment they return to Texas. In the meantime, they’re working the Capitol and the White House, seeking some sort of federal voter-protection move that would supersede any state-level laws.