One of dozens of the Texas Democratic lawmakers who left the Lone Star State last week in order to prevent the passage of a controversial election bill likened Gov. Greg Abbott’s threat to have them arrested upon their return to the pursuit of escaped slaves prior to the Civil War.
“We refuse to be a hostage, to remain a hostage within the state of Texas,” State Rep. Senfronia Thompson said at a news conference in Alexandria, Va. Friday. “And I know that there are search warrants out for us. I’m ready to be arrested. What do you do to a slave if you don’t do nothing but arrest them when they flee?
“We fled Texas,” Thompson went on, “and if they want to arrest me, go ahead. I’m ready to be arrested.”
At least 51 members of the Texas House of Representatives and nine state senators took wing to DC to deny the House a quorum during the 30-day special session that began July 13. Abbott, a Republican, has repeatedly vowed to have authorities apprehend the lawmakers if and when they return to Texas and lock them in the legislative chambers so they can consider the election bill and other legislation.
Abbott has also suggested he could continue calling special sessions through next year’s elections if it is needed to force Democrats to return home.
During their time in DC, the lawmakers have met with Vice President Kamala Harris and Democratic members of Congress to push for the passage of two stalled federal election reform measures. However, their lobbying efforts have been overshadowed in recent days by an outbreak of COVID-19.
Six state reps had tested positive for the coronavirus as of Tuesday, along with an aide to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who had contact with the lawmakers last week. A vaccinated White House staffer also tested positive for the virus after interacting with the Pelosi aide.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday that Harris had tested negative for COVID-19 prior to making a Sunday trip to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.
On Tuesday, Psaki said that there were no plans for President Biden to meet with the Texas lawmakers.
The outbreak comes after the Democrats traveled to the nation’s capital unmasked on board a private plane. Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) requires ordinary airplane passengers to wear masks to prevent the spread of the virus, the fact that the flight was chartered allowed the legislators to disregard that guidance as they shared selfies from the plane on social media.