May 31 (UPI) — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott vowed Monday to prevent lawmakers from being paid hours after Democratic legislators stage a walkout late Sunday to deny Republicans the quorum they needed to pass a sweeping election overhaul bill they see as voter suppression.
The Republican governor said he’d deny them their pay by vetoing Article 10 of the budget that funds the legislature.
“No pay for those who abandon their responsibilities,” he tweeted. “Stay tuned.”
I will veto Article 10 of the budget passed by the legislature.
Article 10 funds the legislative branch.
No pay for those who abandon their responsibilities.
Stay tuned.— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) May 31, 2021
The threat of withholding pay came in response to Democrats late Sunday exiting the state’s Republican-controlled House chamber in Austin to prevent the GOP from achieving the quorum needed to give final approval to S.B.7, a Republican priority bill that would put sweeping restrictions on voting.
Abbott has until June 20 to enact his veto and deny the lawmakers their $600 a month and a $211 per diem for when they are in session, the Texas Tribune reported.
However, the veto would also affect the pay of other staff as well as legislative agencies and Abbot’s threat came under swift rebuke from the Democrats who framed it as a punitive measure that will punish not only them but others as well as remove power from the people.
“Punishing working class office staff, maintenance and other support services because he didn’t get every single one of his demands is very on-brand for Texas Republicans,” state Rep. Gene Wu said in a tweet, stating he doesn’t care about his $600 a month salary “[b]ut there are thousands of workers here with families to support.”
“This is petty and tone-deaf, even for Texas,” he said.
State Rep. Donna Howard said the veto would eliminate the branch of state government that represents the people “and basically create a monarchy.”
The Democrats walked out of the House over S.B.7 that will ban drive-through and 24-hour voting while putting restrictions on mail-in voting, including the banning of drop boxes. It also increases civil and felony penalties on election officials, voters and volunteers, including on those who mail out an unrequested application.
Republicans accused the Democrats of dereliction of duty over thier walkout, but Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, also a Democrat, explained the quorum break is “a valid parliamentary maneuver” in Texas.
“It’s rare because it’s almost impossible to get so many people on the same page,” she said.
The Texas Republicans’ elections measures is one of several that have been spearheaded in Republican-controlled states following former President Donald Trump’s election loss to President Joe Biden.
Despite officials stating November’s general election was the “most secure in American history,” Republicans, including Texas’ governor, have defended their bills as needed to ensure the integrity of the election.
Advocates have railed against the measures as voter suppression, predominantly targeting minority groups.
Sarah Labowitz, the policy and advocacy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, called S.B.7 “one of the ugliest anti-voter bills in the country.”
Following the walkout, Abbott said he would call the legislators back for a special session.
“I expect legislators to have worked out their differences prior to arriving back at the Capitol so that they can hit the ground running to pass legislation related to these emergency items and other priority legislation,” he said in a statement Monday. “During the special session, we will continue to advance policies that put the people of Texas first.”
The Democrats during an end of session press conference vowed they will continue to fight S.B.7.
“They say everything is bigger in Texas,” Wu said. “If S.B.7 had passed, that would be true for voter suppression, too.”