Texas Democrats Face Covid Outbreak and a Stalled Voting Rights Push

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After astatine slightest six authorities lawmakers tested affirmative for the coronavirus, the radical is present confined to a Washington hotel, holding virtual meetings and making small headway successful its persuasion campaign.

State Representative Carl Sherman Sr. of Texas, a Democrat, spoke astatine  a voting rights rally successful  Washington connected  Saturday.
Credit...Kenny Holston for The New York Times

Reid J. EpsteinNick Corasaniti

July 20, 2021Updated 5:38 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON — Democratic authorities lawmakers from Texas arrived successful Washington past week with plans to use unending unit connected the Senate to walk voting rights protections that would assistance counteract a Republican predetermination overhaul measure backmost home.

Then a Covid-19 outbreak stalled their progress.

The full delegation from Texas is present stuck astatine a Washington edifice aft six of the Democratic authorities representatives tested affirmative for the coronavirus, and an authoritative from Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s bureau who met with them has besides tested positive. All of those who person tested affirmative are afloat vaccinated, but cipher successful the superior is present peculiarly anxious to conscionable successful idiosyncratic with the group, which has resorted to virtual meetings.

In the meantime, Senate Democratic leaders stay focused connected passing an infrastructure package, President Biden is successful a standoff with societal media companies, and determination has been nary nationalist motion that the Texas Democrats person won implicit immoderate senators who weren’t already connected committee with their propulsion to walk caller national voting authorities without clearing a 60-vote Senate threshold. They person not secured a radical gathering with Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona oregon with immoderate Republicans.

And they cannot spell location to Texas for different 2 and a fractional weeks oregon they volition hazard being arrested for leaving the state.

The lawmakers’ travel began past week erstwhile astir 60 Democratic members of the State House departed Texas successful an effort to forestall the transition of a restrictive caller voting bill by the Republican-controlled Legislature. After their accomplishment successful Washington was met with a swarm of tv cameras successful an airdrome parking lot, consequent efforts to gully attraction to their origin were little successful.

Now, with the coronavirus appearing to dispersed among the lawmakers, plans for larger events similar a Washington gathering of supportive authorities legislators from crossed the state person been delayed.

“If anything, this goes into a debased gear, but I deliberation the momentum inactive builds and we’re successful a cleanable presumption erstwhile this happening crescendos,” said State Representative Trey Martinez Fischer, a person of the delegation who connected Tuesday was successful the 3rd time of a 10-day quarantine successful his edifice country aft investigating affirmative for the virus. “It’s slowed things down a small bit, but this Covid is not unsocial to us. It whitethorn conscionable alteration our engagement methods, but we inactive person a mode to marque a splash.”

The outbreak, which began connected Saturday with 3 affirmative tests among the Texas lawmakers, has present dispersed beyond the group. A property adjutant for Ms. Pelosi tested affirmative connected Monday aft coming into interaction with members of the Texas Legislature past week, said Drew Hammill, a spokesperson for the speaker.

He said the adjutant had had nary interaction with the talker since being exposed to the virus. Mr. Hammill added that Ms. Pelosi’s property bureau was moving remotely, but for aides who had tested antagonistic oregon who did not travel successful interaction with the infected aide.


Credit...Pete Marovich for The New York Times

Also connected Tuesday, Jen Psaki, the White House property secretary, said astatine a quality league that a afloat vaccinated White House authoritative had besides tested affirmative for the microorganism “off campus,” was experiencing “mild symptoms,” and remained distant from the analyzable awaiting a trial to corroborate the diagnosis. She would not divulge whether the adjutant had been with the Texas lawmakers.

The quality of the infections rattled immoderate connected Capitol Hill, wherever lawmakers and their aides person been moving toward much mean operations for months.

By staying distant from the State Capitol successful Austin, the Democratic authorities representatives person denied Republicans a quorum indispensable for the State House to behaviour business, delaying the transition of caller restrictions connected voting. Those voting measures, on with different blimpish priorities, were enactment guardant successful a peculiar league that was called lone due to the fact that the State House Democrats walked retired of the Capitol successful the last hours of the regular league successful May, denying Republicans an accidental to walk a voting measure then.

Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, has threatened to person Texas House Democrats who instrumentality to the authorities arrested and “cabined” successful the State House enclosure until a quorum is reached.

Mr. Abbott and different Texas Republicans person relentlessly mocked the Democrats. Dade Phelan, the Republican talker of the Texas State House, has demanded they instrumentality their $221 per diem, said helium had chartered a level from Washington to prime them up, and said helium had consulted with the authorities wellness commissioner “for immoderate further guidance connected protocols for those exposed to Covid-19 post-vaccination.”

The Texas Democrats, who are each said to beryllium vaccinated, did not deterioration masks connected their 2 charter flights from Austin to the Washington area, nor did they connected buses to and from the airports.

Because of the outbreak, meetings and conferences that would person taken spot successful idiosyncratic are present connected screens. Plans for astatine slightest the adjacent week person been frozen.

“Everybody is scrambling due to the fact that the realization is hitting that this caller strain is among america and is precise contagious adjacent among radical who are vaccinated,” Gina Hinojosa, a authorities typical from Austin, said.

On Tuesday morning, the delegation met implicit a video telephone with Representative James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, the third-ranking House Democrat. Mr. Clyburn, Ms. Hinojosa said, remains optimistic that the Senate tin walk a national voting rights overhaul earlier aboriginal August, erstwhile the existent peculiar league of the Texas Legislature volition expire. (Mr. Abbott has promised to telephone a caller 1 if Democrats bash not instrumentality by Aug. 6, erstwhile the league ends.)

Mr. Clyburn encouraged the Texans, they said, to propulsion to person a cardinal measurement successful the projected John Lewis Voting Rights Act — the Justice Department’s preclearance requirements, nether which a fig of states mostly successful the South had to person national support earlier changing voting laws — transferred to the much broad For the People Act, which passed the House and remains stalled successful the Senate.

A typical for Mr. Clyburn did not instantly respond to a petition for comment.

Later connected Tuesday, the Texas Democratic delegation, whose members are present undergoing regular microorganism tests, hosted a virtual quality conference, reiterating the agelong past of civilian rights and voting rights battles and reaffirming their committedness to propulsion Congress and the White House to walk national voting legislation.

But the members were confined to pixelated Zoom boxes, and immoderate of them simply had avatars look erstwhile they spoke, oregon achromatic boxes with their names fractional obscured.

“We person a precise robust docket successful presumption of continued outreach to members of Congress,” said State Representative Ron Reynolds, who represents the Houston area. “We’re inactive moving diligently done the Covid protocols that we’ve already acceptable successful place.”

He added: “We’re not doing arsenic galore in-person visits. We’re inactive having galore meetings via Zoom.”

The members besides said they remained hopeful for a gathering with Mr. Biden; portion they met with Vice President Kamala Harris connected their archetypal afloat time successful Washington, they person yet to unafraid a gathering with the president.

“We cognize the president is watching,” said State Representative Ina Minjarez, who is from San Antonio. “We’re waiting for him to call.”

Luke Broadwater and Nicholas Fandos contributed reporting.

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