It’s been three weeks since Democrats in the Texas House fled the state Capitol for Washington, D.C., in an attempt to break quorum and halt progress on election integrity legislation. As it turns out, a couple of lawmakers have been on a European vacation.
During the period of quorum-busting, one lawmaker came back to Austin only to return to the nation’s Capitol a few days later. Another, who said he couldn’t afford to be away from work, stayed in Texas but away from the Capitol.
Now, two Democrats are accused of leaving their colleagues in the nation’s Capitol—not for Texas, but Europe.
The allegation was first thrown by Dave Carney, Gov. Greg Abbott’s political consultant, in a post on Twitter that posed the question: “Is a European vacation still considered fleeing to fight against voter integrity? Asking for a friend.”
— Dave Carney (@granitewinger) August 3, 2021
That tweet was quickly followed by a post by State Rep. Jared Patterson (R–Frisco), which identified the alleged international travelers as Democrat State Reps. Julie Johnson (Carrollton) and Jessica Gonzalez (Dallas) and the destination as Portugal.
— Rep. Jared Patterson (@JaredLPatterson) August 3, 2021
State Rep. Briscoe Cain (R–Deer Park) indicated he had heard the same.
— 𝐁𝐫𝐢𝐬𝐜𝐨𝐞 𝐂𝐚𝐢𝐧 (@BriscoeCain) August 3, 2021
Enrique Marquez, the communications director for Speaker Dade Phelan, carried a tone of disbelief, posting a message saying, “Portugal? No way. Right?”
Requests for comment to both the offices of Johnson and Gonzales thus far received no response.
If some Democrat House members have indeed fled for Europe, it would be the latest in a series of high-profile missteps since they left for D.C. on July 12. Since departing for the trip with a case of Miller Lite in tow, several members have contracted COVID-19, and Dallas Democrats solicited care packages of soda and candy to send to their runaway House members. In all of their time in D.C., the lawmakers have still failed to secure a meeting with President Joe Biden, let alone influence the U.S. Senate to take up and consider legislation passed by the U.S. House of Representatives called the “For the People Act”—reforming elections at the federal level.
Though Democrats have not signaled an imminent plan for return, Speaker Phelan and the House have for weeks failed to take any meaningful action to compel their attendance—including stripping committee chairmanships from Democrats and fining them for their absence.
The first called special session is slated to end on Friday, August 6. Gov. Greg Abbott has indicated he will call repeated special sessions until the work is done.