While Republican state officials have repeatedly pushed the narrative that Democrats alone are responsible for stalling the current special state legislative session, grassroots leaders say Republicans are actually responsible.

On July 12, a majority of Democrat state representatives boarded a private jet and flew to Washington, D.C., abandoning the state Capitol while the Legislature was in session. The move forced the Texas House of Representatives to essentially shut down, as the rules require a quorum of at least 100 legislators to be present for the chamber to pass laws.

Since then, some Democrats have returned, bringing the last reported number of present representatives up to 92. However, the special session convened by Gov. Greg Abbott remains stalled, as are the priorities he put on legislators’ to-do list—such as election integrity reforms, border security, protecting women’s sports, and property tax relief.

Grassroots leaders were asked how they think Abbott and Speaker of the House Dade Phelan (R–Beaumont) have handled the situation. They weren’t happy.

“The handling of the Democrats despicable conduct has been atrocious,” Al Zito of Southlake told Texas Scorecard. “It was obvious to just about everyone in Texas … what the Democrats were going to do at the start of special session. To not be prepared for their despicable actions, it’s almost comical in a sad way.”

“Phelan has not used the tools at hand to prevent or dispel this impasse,” said Ruth York of Eastland.

“The killing of conservative priority legislation and the Democrat walkout was enabled the day the House Republican majority party once again voluntarily shared legislative control with the minority party by allowing Democrats to chair committees,” said JoAnn Fleming of Grassroots America – We The People.

“I put all the blame on the stalled special session and the failed regular session on Dade Phelan and Greg Abbott,” said Fran Rhodes, president of True Texas Project. “It’s hard to blame the Democrats for using procedure to get what they want when the Republican leadership does nothing to stop it, impose consequences on their actions, or compel them to return.”

Matt Long of the Fredericksburg Tea Party reminds readers it was public knowledge the Democrats would do something to stop election integrity reforms. “The action by the Democrats was predictable. And rather than head them off at the pass, leadership allowed this to happen,” he said.

Andy Hopper, co-founder of Wise County Conservatives, pointed out how Phelan reacted when Democrats blocked election integrity during the regular session. “[He] could have locked the doors to keep them from breaking quorum the last day of the regular session [earlier this year], and yet he clearly conveyed that he would do nothing to stop them,” Hopper said. ”Democrats knew exactly how Phelan would react, and I would not be surprised at this point to find out that Dade Phelan helped them carry their luggage.”

Words and Actions

These citizens also took issue with Abbott’s strong words but lack of action during the legislative soap opera, particularly his statement that rogue Democrats who finally return to Texas would be arrested and brought to the Capitol.

“All hat and no cattle!” said Rhodes.

“There is such a history of immense daylight between our governor’s words, his actions, and measurable results, that we are not surprised his special session rhetoric—tailored for uninformed cable news watchers—far outdistances his actions,” Fleming said.

Others were similarly unimpressed, but they blamed House leadership as well.

“We’ve now learned that up until yesterday, Democrats have come back to Texas and were never arrested,” Hopper said. “It’s crystal clear that Gov. Abbott and House leadership have no intention whatsoever of taking any bold steps to establish a quorum.”

“The ‘threats’ made by both Phelan and Abbott ring hollow to me,” said Long.

“This situation clearly illustrates the dysfunctional condition of the Texas Legislature, especially the Texas House,” said Zito. “Speaker Phelan’s incompetence to keep quorum and to efficiently move the Republican agenda and priorities is unacceptable.”

After Democrats left, Gov. Abbott said he intends to call “special session after special session” until elections next year. The current special session will end in nine days.

Robert Montoya

Born in Houston, Robert Montoya is an investigative reporter for Texas Scorecard. He believes transparency is the obligation of government.