The Texas Democrats who traveled to Washington to break the state House quorum to avoid losing votes in a special session will cost them an estimated $1.5 million combined, according to the Democrat raising funds for the protest.
More than 50 Democratic House lawmakers from Texas fled to the nation's capital last week to temporarily block efforts to pass election reform measures in the state and staying through Aug. 7 for the entire special session will cost around $1.5 million, Democratic state Rep. Armando Walle told NBC News.
The fly-away protest is not being funded by taxpayer dollars, said Walle, who is leading the effort to raise money to pay for the travel, transportation, hotels and meals, NBC News reported.
At least five of the Texas Democrats have tested positive for COVID-19 in Washington after flying without masks, according to reports.
The private jet alone cost more than $100,000 and was paid via wire transfer from the state House Democratic Caucus hours before takeoff, while the hotel stays and other expenses were put on personal credit cards, including a large block of hotel rooms put on one lawmaker's American Express card, according to the report.
The action was taken to keep the Texas House from a two-thirds quorum in order to keep the Legislature from passing a number of bills, particularly Republican-backed election reform measures.
The credit card payments are expected to be reimbursed through fundraising efforts led by Walle, who has already received $250,000 in donations, NBC News reported.
Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke, D-Texas, said last week that his Powered by People PAC had raised more than $500,000 in just a few days, The Dallas Morning News reported.
Musician Willie Nelson chipped in $5,000 and posted pitches urging others to fund the Democrats, according to the Morning News.
Texas GOP Gov. Greg Abbott has warned the Democrats who fled they can be arrested by state police and be brought to the state Capitol once they return to the state, and the NAACP is setting up a bail fund to support the pricey protest, group President Derrick Johnson said, The Hill reported.
Abbott can continue to call 30-day special sessions until the funding bills and election laws are brought to votes in the House, which has a strong Republican majority.
Abbott issued a statement denouncing the Democrats for abandoning their duty:
"Texas Democrats' decision to break a quorum of the Texas Legislature and abandon the Texas State Capitol inflicts harm on the very Texans who elected them to serve. As they fly across the country on cushy private planes, they leave undone issues that can help their districts and our state.
- property tax relief,
- funding to support Sheriffs and law enforcement in high crime areas,
- funding for children in foster care, and,
- funding for retired teachers.
"The Democrats must put aside partisan political games and get back to the job they were elected to do. Their constituents must not be denied these important resources simply because their elected representative refused to show up to work."
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