WASHINGTON (KXAN) — A group of 16 Texas Democratic lawmakers met Wednesday morning with Vice President Kamala Harris to talk about the ongoing fight over voting.
Harris’s office announced last week that she would sit down at the White House with the state legislators whose walkout helped sink a GOP-led elections bill at the end of this legislative session.
The vice president began the meeting by telling the lawmakers, “You are courageous leaders, and you are American patriots.”
Senior administration officials said the conversation Wednesday will focus on existing voting measures in Texas as well as the path forward. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott already stated some version of Senate Bill 7, which the Democrats defeated with their procedural move, would be taken up soon during a special session.
“We know we have a great challenge in front of us and therefore a fight,” Harris said, “which is to fight for every American’s right, meaningful right, to vote.”
Senior administration officials responded to a question earlier in the day about the possibility of Texan Republicans approving new voting rules despite the increasingly public pushback from the White House and others. They said they remain hopeful the latest proposals will expand access to voting, and the White House will keep highlighting efforts to do so.
Harris explained Wednesday that’s part of the reason why she organized this particular meeting.
“We will do everything in our power as an administration to lift up the voices of those who seek to preserve the right of the people to vote,” Harris said. “We’re not telling people how to vote, and frankly this is not a Democratic or a Republican issue. This is an American issue.”
She also said she would discuss with the Texas lawmakers about a commitment to keep urging Congress to approve federal voting legislation, namely the For The People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.
Harris specifically brought up SB 7, saying it “clearly has been written in a way to make it difficult for people” to vote. However, Texas Republicans argued the legislation was needed to further secure the election processes in the state.
Michael Joyce, a spokesperson for the Republican National Committee, issued a statement criticizing Harris for meeting with Texas Democrats and not traveling to the state.
“It’s no wonder Kamala Harris is meeting with Texas Democrats in Washington, DC today,” Joyce said. “Texas is far too close to the southern border for Harris to have any interest.”
Ahead of Wednesday’s meeting, State Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, posted a tweet showing him and several other colleagues after they took a COVID-19 test.
Sen. John Cornyn mocked the Texas Democrats’ visit to Washington, D.C. in a tweet. He wrote, “All they did is walk off their job.”
After their meeting with Harris, several members of the Texas Democratic delegation addressed Cornyn’s criticism after a reporter asked a question about that.
“We did not walk off our jobs,” Texas Rep. Senfronia Thompson said. “What we did was we walked out for the benefit of the people that we represent, and those are the people of Texas to preserve our moment. That is our job is to represent our interests.”
Texas Sen. Royce West spoke directly to Cornyn.
“Sit down and visit with us,” West said. “The fact of the matter is that we’re doing our job by making certain every Texan, every American has a right to vote in this country, and it’s not being suppressed under some fake narrative called voter integrity.”
“We’ve used every tool in the box. We did in the Senate, the House members did. It is part of our job. We’re doing our job,” Texas Sen. Carol Alvarado added. “We’d like him to do his job and meet with his own constituents — being us.”
A spokeswoman for Cornyn told KXAN some of his staff members met with the state lawmakers during their trip, too. She said, “The two sides didn’t agree on much, but it was a cordial meeting.”