A Texas Democrat who was among more than 50 state lawmakers to fly from Austin to Washington, D.C., earlier this week to block a GOP voting bill by denying quorum was called out by critics on social media Thursday night over a post about her hand-washed clothes.
Critics suggested the post was another self-serving attempt by a Democrat to portray their absence from Texas – after taking a chartered flight to the nation’s capital – as a personal sacrifice instead of a political strategy move.
“You bet we’re recognizing & honoring our country’s heritage,” state Rep. Donna Howard posted. “As most Texans, tho [sp], this is what we’re doing tonight—using whatever is accessible, uwashing [sic] our clothes in the sink.”
Howard’s Twitter post included a photo of her wet clothes draped over a shower curtain in what looked like a modest hotel room.
Some supporters of the Democrats see them as defending democracy itself, while their critics see their D.C. jaunt as an exclusive summertime sightseeing tour of Washington, in which they’ve been eating salads and drinking Miller Lites— on someone else’s dime.
The Texas State Legislature is a part-time body whose members are paid an annual salary of $7,200. So the vast majority of the delegates have other primary jobs back in Texas. But state representatives collect a $221 per diem for days that the legislature is in session.
A spokesperson for Gov. Greg Abbott’s office told Fox News on Wednesday that the Democrats who flew to Washington were still receiving that daily stipend.
Some critics asked why Howard’s clothes were not just laundered.
Matt Whitlock, a Republican commentator, called the lawmaker’s tweet “super strange.”
“But as you know, you wouldn’t have to do this if you were at home in Texas doing your job,” he tweeted. “Instead of being here to do tourist things and gaslight about election bills not actually accomplishing anything.”
Howard’s office did not immediately respond to an after-hours email from Fox News seeking comment.
Texas House Democrats left the state Monday in an attempt to break quorum and stop the votes on two election bills put forward by state Republicans. The lawmakers hopped on a private flight to Washington where they planned to push for federal voter protections.
The situation unfolding in Texas has little gray area. Republicans — like Gov. Greg Abbott — see the bill as a common-sense approach to voting. Abbott appeared on Fox News earlier this week and blamed President Biden and Democrats for spreading “misinformation” about the sweeping elections overhaul bill.
He insisted that the bill in Texas is “making it EASIER to vote & harder to cheat.”
Abbott has accused the legislators of “hanging out on a taxpayer-paid junket” and said they will be arrested upon their return.
The delegation had maintained that the entire trip is being funded by donations through the state’s Democratic Caucus, not taxpayers. They’re also in the midst of a public debate as to whether to decline their $221 per diems.
“Our mission here, in Washington, is to use this time in this legislative session between now and Aug. 7 to say to the U.S. Senate that we need to pass federal voting rights legislation. And we need it now, said Rep. Chris Turner or Arlington, the leader of the Texas House Democrats. “And we’re going to get into some good trouble, as best we can, while we’re doing it.”
Texas’ Republican House Speaker announced that he plans to charter a plane that will be on “standby” in Washington waiting to bring home Democratic lawmakers that fled the state.
“I am demanding all of our colleagues in D.C. to contact my staff immediately in order to secure their seat on the plane and return to Austin in order to do the state’s business,” Speaker Dade Phelan said in a statement. “The State of Texas is waiting.”
Fox News’ Andrew Mark Miller and the Associated Press contributed to this report.