The political stunt on which Texas House Democrats embarked last week will ultimately cost more than $1 million.
What is the background?
More than 50 Democrats elected to represent Texans in their state House fled the Lone Star State last Monday to deny the state House the required quorum of two-thirds of lawmakers present to conduct business.
The move blocked legislation that Democrats opposed, including one bill that Texas Republicans say was meant to bolster election security, but Democrats claimed would restrict voting rights.
Texas House Democrats fled to Washington, D.C., on private airplanes and plan to stay in the nation’s capital until Aug. 7, the date when a legislative special session is meant to conclude.
What is the cost of the political stunt?
Texas state Rep. Armando Walle (D) told NBC News the trip will have cost approximately $1.5 million when all is said and done.
“Walle said the pair of private charter jets the majority of legislators took to Washington cost more than $100,000, while housing, food and other transportation costs will make up the bulk of other expenses,” NBC News reported.
Those jets were reportedly financed by a wire transfer from the Texas House Democratic Caucus. Members and staffers who made the trip have been paying for many of their expenses on personal credit cards, and one member reportedly paid for the hotel rooms where the members are staying with his American Express card, according to NBC News. Other caucuses within the Texas House Democrats have also picked up some expenses.
Legislators expect to be reimbursed for their personal expenses. But who will be paying for that?
The caucus says no taxpayer dollars are being spent on the trip. Instead, the group is fundraising to cover their costs. Walle told NBC News the caucus had raised about $250,000, while members are fielding donations, too. Powered by People, a voting rights organization started by Beto O’Rourke, has also raised at least $500,000 for the trip.
What is the taxpayer cost?
While the Texas House Democratic Caucus has pledged that taxpayers will not foot the bill for their trip, the special session they abandoned can cost taxpayers over $1 million.
The session, of course, has continued in the absence of most Texas House Democrats, but the state House has been effectively blocked from conducting any business, because as long as the Democratic caucus remains in Washington, they cannot reach the required two-thirds of lawmakers present for quorum.
That means Texas House Democrats have wasted a costly legislative session.