Texas Speaker calls on state Democrats who fled to Washington to forfeit their pay

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Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan on Wednesday called on state Democratic lawmakers to give up their daily stipend of $221 as they hunker down in Washington, D.C. to avoid passing a voting reform bill.

At least 51 of the state’s 67 House Democrats boarded a private plane for the nation’s capital Monday in an effort to prevent a quorum and deny Republicans the ability to pass a controversial voting bill. 

Another nine Democratic Senators are believed to have joined the House members in D.C. 

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“While these Texas Democrats collect taxpayer money as they ride on private jets to meet with the Washington elite, those who remain in the chamber await their return to begin work on providing our retired teachers a 13th check, protecting our foster kids, and providing taxpayer relief,” Phelan said in a statement Wednesday. “Those who are intentionally denying quorum should return their per diem to the State Treasury immediately upon receipt.”

Texas Democrats flew to D.C. to meet with President Biden and encourage Congress to pass federal legislation barring increased voter regulations under the “For the People Act” and the “John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.”

While Texas House members have been unable to pass a voting reform bill under the special session called by Gov. Greg Abbott, Senate Republicans passed their version titled Senate Bill 1 Tuesday.

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Despite a number of Democratic Senators leaving the special session for Washington, a quorum in the Senate was maintained with 22 of its 31 members present, allowing for the passage of the bill. 

Some Democrats have rejected the notion that their trip to Washington means they are not working. 

“We’re doing our jobs,” state Rep. Chris Turner told Fox News Tuesday. “We’re working harder doing what we’re doing right now than we would be if we had stayed in the chamber to watch them run through a voter suppression bill on a party-line vote.”

But not all Texas Democrats in Washington said they would keep the per diem amount allotted to lawmakers under a special session.

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“Representative Beckley will not be accepting any per diem payments and will return any per diem that has been paid to her each day that she has not been in Austin since the quorum break,” her spokesman said in a statement Wednesday, adding her office has been working since Monday to ensure the proper paperwork is filed and money returned to the state. 

The special session called on July 8 by Abbott was set to last for 30 days, meaning Texas Democrats could be remaining in the nation’s capital for several weeks to come.

Hillary Vaughn contributed to this report.