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The tab for Texas Democrats to jet to Washington, DC, and remain in the nation’s capital until next month to forestall Republican-led election legislation is estimated to be about $1.5 million, one of the Lone Star State lawmakers said Monday.
The group of about 60 legislators — five of whom have contracted the coronavirus on the trip — arrived in DC via two chartered flights last Monday and will stay until the session expires on Aug. 7 to deprive the state House of Representatives of a quorum.
The price of keeping them out of Texas will be about $1.5 million, state Rep. Armando Walle told NBC News.
He said the private charter jets cost the group more than $100,000, leaving housing, meals and transportation as the bulk of the remaining costs.
The flights were paid for by the state House Democratic Caucus, and individual lawmakers have been putting bills on their personal credit cards.
The contingent of lawmakers is staying at the Washington Plaza Hotel, where rooms start at $189 a night, according to the Texas Tribune.
The Mexican American Legislative Caucus is also paying for some of the costs with the House Democratic Caucus using existing funds, and members have been adamant that no taxpayer funds have been spent.
But Republicans say the sojourn to the nation’s capital is costing taxpayers — pointing to the $1 million in estimated costs to hold the month-long special session, in which no bills will be passed because of the Democrats being delinquent.
“There is no excuse for their p.r. stunt, and I join thousands of Texans in demanding that these Democrats get back to work,” Abbott said recently, the Associated Press reported.
Last week, House Speaker Dale Phelan said he put a chartered plane on standby at Dulles Airport to bring the absent lawmakers back to Austin.
“I am demanding all of our colleagues in DC to contact my staff immediately in order to secure their seat on the plane and return to Austin in order to do the state’s business. The state of Texas is waiting,” said Phelan, a Republican, noting that his political campaign will pay for it, the Texas Tribune reported.
Phelan also asked the lawmakers, who earn a $600-a-month salary, to return their $221 per diem for the session.
Walle said the Democrats are receiving donations from various groups and have gotten about $250,000 so far.
“I think just personally, I’ve probably had 500 or 600 of very small donations from working-class people who believe in the cause of saving democracy,” he said. “That means a hell of a lot to me. That’s a shot in the arm to continue this fight.”
While in Washington, the Democrats are lobbying their congressional colleagues to pass federal voting rights legislation.
This week, they plan to hold a week-long video conference in DC to continue airing their opposition to the Republican voting measures, according to the Washington Post.
Among the speakers booked for the conference are civil rights activist and labor leader Dolores Huerta, as well as members of the Service Employees International Union and Mi Familia Vota, a national Latino voter turnout organization.
Democratic Reps. Barbara Jackson-Lee and Joaquin Castro of Texas will also appear at the virtual conference later this week.
The conference is being held virtually because of the members in quarantine after catching COVID.
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