Democrat trip to Washington not being paid for with tax dollars, says RGV representative

Texas Politics

HARLINGEN, Texas (KVEO) — On Monday more than 50 Democrats in the Texas House of Representatives flew to Washington D.C. from Austin in protest of bills being worked on during the special session they believe to be harmful to Texans.

Questions arose about how exactly Democrats were paying for the trip after it was revealed that the group flew to Washington aboard a private plane and that they intended to stay in the area for an extended period of time.

Alex Dominguez, a Democrat who represents Texas House of Representative District 37 in Brownsville, explained to KVEO in a video interview from Washington D.C. that the trip was being paid for by the members themselves.

“There are no tax dollars involved at all. Whatever expenses that are incurred will either be paid by ourselves personally or the House Democratic Caucus,” said Dominguez.

Members of the Texas House of Representatives serve two-year terms just like the members of the Federal House of Representatives. Members of the Texas House of Representatives make a salary of $7,200 per year for being a part of the legislature.

They also have a per diem of $221 per day for the entirety of the legislative session, which typically lasts 140 days and occurs every two years. Total compensation for members of the state legislature is $45,340 over two years of their two-year term unless special sessions are called.

Legislators also get that per diem during special sessions, like the one that began on July 8.

Dominguez told KVEO that he is “sending a letter declining my per diem for the rest of the special session.” He added that it wasn’t something he had spoken to the other members about, and he didn’t know if anyone else from the group would join him in rejecting the per diem.

He said he’s doing it so people will understand that he did not leave the special session for Washington D.C. as a way to enrich himself, but to work to bring attention to the voting bill issue.

This is not the first time Democratic members of the State House of Representatives left the state to break quorum, they did it in 2003 as well.

Republicans voted to arrest the Democratic members who left, but since they are no longer in the state, Texas police do not have the authority to bring them back. 

In a press conference on July 13, Texas State House Republicans talked about the actions they were taking to continue working on the bills up for review in the special session. However, without a quorum in the House, no bills can actually be approved and sent to the Governor to become law.

Jim Murphy, a Republican State Representative from District 133 in Houston, decried the actions of the Democrats but conceded that the Republicans and state law enforcement couldn’t do anything to bring the Democrats back to Austin.

“We hope that all those legislators not here will, by their own will, choose to come back and do the work. That’s what we’re elected to do so, that was the oath we swore to, those were the rules we adopted,” said Murphy.

Dominguez told KVEO that the group of representatives had no intentions of returning to Texas unless Republicans agreed to negotiate on the special session bills, but based on the last weeks of the regular session, that looked unlikely.

“We offered amendments to improve the voting bill. They were all voted down on straight party-line votes which lets me know that there is no room to really negotiate with them. Their goal is for us to sit there and take it, and we will not be party to that,” said Dominguez.

While in Washington, the Texas Democrats met with Vice-President Kamala Harris, as well as colleagues in the Senate who are pushing for the passage of federal voting bills that would protect voters’ freedoms.

Dominguez said the Texas Democrats’ mission to Washington was helping that.

He added that the group’s meeting with members of the Senate, as well as the vice-president went well.

“What they want us to do is exactly what we’re doing right now. Bring a national focus on the issue of voting rights, and how many states have taken a step backwards,” said Dominguez.

Senator Schumer made it a point to say there was nothing more American than defending the right to vote and called the group from Texas brave and courageous.

In an interview with KVUE in Austin on Monday, Governor Abbott said that he would not let this issue go without a fight and will continue to order special sessions up until the 2022 election if needed.

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