Republicans Don't Know What to Think
on Dem's Return Amid Mixed Messages

Capitol Inside
July 22, 2021

The Democrats could be messing with Texas Republican heads by creating the appearance of cracks in a united front with a lone lawmaker's return to the state House after a week on the lam with more than 50 colleagues who are running the show in Austin from hotel rooms in Washington D.C.

The emergence of State Rep. Philip Cortez of San Antonio on the lower chamber floor on Wednesday has GOP lawmakers expressing guarded confidence now about the prospects for House Democrats turning against each other until a sufficient number are back for a quorum on a radioactive elections bill.

Texas House GOP Caucus Chairman Jim Murphy said that 91 representatives were in Austin on Wednesday amid signs that the Democrats' solidarity on the verge of unraveling in the nation's capital city. "More and more have told us they are returning, and we need to get 100, so we are getting closer every day,” Murphy said.

GOP leaders and lawmakers in Texas have been grasping for glimmers of hope on a vote on the bill that would make it harder to vote for people who lives in the state's largest cities and suburbs. More than a dozen House Republicans floated theories at a Texas Conservative Coalition event on Tuesday on Democrats losing interest in the holdout with an outbreak of COVID-19 limiting their activities this week in the District of Columbia.

The House Republicans at the TCC Research Institute meeting in Austin this week theorized that Democrats would be ready to throw in the towel if they were no longer getting superstar treatment in Washington D.C. None seemed to take into account that they and their fellow Republicans at the statehouse have underestimated the House Democrats at every turn on the voting legislation that they killed initially with a walkout on the final weekend of the regular session.

The Republicans didn't think that the Democrats would use the same exact tactic to block a vote on the election bill in the current special session when Governor Greg Abbott added several measures that haven't been GOP priorities to the summer call as bait to keep the minority party representatives from bolting again. Abbott made the mistake of thinking he could keep the House Democrats from leaving the state by vetoing the Legislature's funding that's set to expire on September 1 without a vote to restore it before then.

But the Article 10 veto has backfired in ways that Abbott failed to anticipate - giving the Democrats a previously unfathomable opportunity to watch the Republican governor defund the Legislature in a move that be an all-time nightmare for him and legislative leaders who've played along with the charade despite its monumental potential to backfire if Democrats could hold out for another five or six weeks.

The Republicans would be foolish if they read anything into Cortez's return to Austin and conflicting statements that it's spawned among the minority party colleagues.

“A small working group of Democrats then asked me to return to Texas to maintain open communication lines across the aisle," Cortez said. "I returned to Texas to continue my work from Washington, D.C., and so far, I have successfully facilitated bi-partisan discussions with my colleagues. Despite my departure from Washington, D.C., I remain supportive of the efforts made by my colleagues.”

But House Republicans don't appear to realize that Cortez has actually put the Democrats in position for another major public relations score if they can persuade him to come back to the bunkers in Washington D.C. in a show of unity that's been reinforced instead of weakened.

Democrats put such a potential process in motion when State Rep. Gina Hinojosa of Austin tweeted that Cortez wasn't negotiating on their behalf after returning to Austin without telling them first. State Rep. Chris Turner - a Grand Prairie lawmaker who chairs the House Democratic Caucus - followed that up on Thursday when he urged Cortez to rejoin ranks in D.C.

more to come ...



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