Harris meets with Texas lawmakers who left state to block GOP voting bill

Chelsey Cox
USA TODAY
  • VP Kamala Harris will meet with Texas Democratic lawmakers this week.
  • Harris last met with Texas Democratic leaders in June.

WASHINGTON — Vice President Kamala Harris met Tuesday with Democratic lawmakers from Texas who left the state to avoid voting on a bill backed by a GOP-controlled Legislature that would make sweeping changes to voting in the state.

Harris hosted a closed meeting with the Democratic lawmakers at the American Federation of Teachers near the Capitol building, according to pool reports. As she walked into the room of more than 60 people, she received a round of applause and standing ovation.

“Defending the right to vote is as American as apple pie,” Harris said in opening remarks to the meeting with the Texas legislators.

The Democratic lawmakers left Texas for Washington Monday to block legislation that would make it harder for Texans to vote. By leaving the state, the group also avoided arrest by state law enforcement officials for breaking quorum.  

“I know what you have done comes with great sacrifice, both personal and political,” said Harris, who was tapped by President Joe Biden in June to lead efforts to protect voting rights. “You are doing this in support and defense of some of our nation’s highest ideals.”

Vice President Kamala Harris meets with Democrats from the Texas state Legislature at the American Federation of Teachers in Washington on Tuesday.

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More:Harris: Texas Democrats displayed 'courage' by leaving state to block GOP voting bill

Harris laid out important moments in history where Americans fought for the right to vote, including when Frederick Douglass appealed to Congress in 1867 for the right for Black men to vote, in 1913 when women marched in Washington to fight for the right to suffrage, and in 1965, when “Democrats and Republicans, stood for the absolute American principle of all people, having the right to vote and pass the Voting Rights Act.”

“And 2021, the Texas legislature came to Washington, D.C.,” Harris continued.

This is the vice president's first meeting with Texas Democrats since June, when some party leaders traveled to Washington after walking out on a debate during a regular session in May.

White House Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Tuesday that Biden "applauds their courage." She added that the White House doesn't have an announcement on whether the president will meet with the legislators.

Contributing: Rebecca Morin

Reach Chelsey Cox on Twitter @therealco.