DALLAS — After more than a month of inaction, the Texas House finally returned to business last week after three Democrats returned to the floor, restoring a quorum.
But not everyone is happy.
On Inside Texas Politics this week, host Jason Whitely speaks with Democratic state Rep. Jasmine Crockett how Texas Democrats' disappointment with their colleagues.
Also, Republican U.S. Rep. Van Taylor joined the show to discuss the situation in Afghanistan and new Arlington Mayor Jim Ross talked about a massive addition to the city's entertainment district.
Democrat disappointed in quorum
After more than a month of inaction, the Texas House finally returned to business last week after three Democrats returned to the floor, restoring a quorum. And many of their Democratic colleagues who remain out-of-town aren’t happy. Representative Jasmine Crocket, D-Dallas, says calling herself disappointed would be putting it lightly.
“I am truly sorry to all Texans, especially so many of my constituents as well as so many other people in this country that were believing in us,” Rep. Crockett said on Inside Texas Politics. “The fact that, literally, they folded and we’re almost there. We’re not there yet. But we know that there’s federal legislation that they’re working on. They’re working right now.”
The U.S. House is scheduled to vote this week on the “John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.” National Democratic leaders say it would fully restore the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
When Texas Democrats first escaped to D.C., a handful of them tested positive for COVID-19, launching a great deal of criticism from Republicans. Last week, Republican Governor Greg Abbott also tested positive for COVID-19. In a tweet following the Governor’s diagnosis, Rep. Crockett asked what was more appropriate, thoughts and prayers, hoping there’s an ICU bed or allowing mask mandates.
The Representative says Democrats in D.C. were following CDC protocols when they tested positive.
And once the CDC guidance changed, she says they changed as well. The Democrat says the same is not happening on the floor of the Texas House and Governor Abbott’s positive test is putting Republican hypocrisy on national display.
“They’re still refusing to wear a mask,” said Rep. Crockett. “So, not only is there so much legislation that’s really bad for our constituency on the House floor waiting for us, seemingly there’s COVID on the floor waiting for us.”
In terms of the race for Governor, Representative Crockett says her party is running short on time. The general election is now only 14-months out and a serious Democratic contender has yet to emerge. That candidate will need time to get a statewide campaign off the ground and Rep. Crockett says there’s really only one person who could do that, a certain former U.S. Congressman from El Paso.
“It’s almost impossible to get your name I.D. as well as your machine going in the entire state to actually be able to amount a challenge. I think there’s only one person that can mount a challenge and I think that’s Beto O’Rourke,” she explained.
Republican calls Afghanistan withdrawal 'atrocious'
Congressman Van Taylor, himself a decorated Iraq war veteran, didn’t mince words when describing America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan. The Republican from Plano calls it the worst foreign policy disaster our country has ever faced.
“The planning was atrocious,” the Plano Republican said on Inside Texas Politics. “We have more U.S. troops on the ground today in Afghanistan than we did when we tried to pull out, which tells you how badly this has gone.”
Congressman Taylor says the Biden Administration deserves the blame for the chaotic withdrawal, despite missteps by previous Presidents, including the deal initially forged between President Trump and the Taliban. He says the primary mistake President Biden made was assuming that once America withdraws, nobody would rush in to fill the vacuum.
“All he had to do was nothing. If President Biden had done nothing, not a thing, the Taliban, a terrorist group, would not control Afghanistan and the region would not be totally destabilized by having a complete power vacuum,” Congressman Taylor said.
And Congressman Taylor says there are no easy answers moving forward. The best we can do, he says, is to make sure we get every American home. The Republican is a co-chair of the “For Country Caucus,” a bipartisan group of veterans that sent a letter to President Biden last week asking him how he planned to get all Americans and allies home safely.
“We have got to take a proactive stance on this and say we are getting everybody home and we are staying until everybody comes home,” said the Republican. “As a Marine, I lived the creed ‘leave no man behind.’ We’re not leaving anybody behind.”
Arlington adding to entertainment district
The city of Arlington has experienced explosive growth over the last decade or so, including a couple of new stadiums and a new Entertainment District. In many ways, the city stepped out of the shadows of Dallas and Fort Worth. And the new Mayor says he ran because he wanted to make sure someone was in office who could continue the momentum
“I want to add to the growth, but not just the growth in the entertainment district or the growth in population, but I want to add to the growth of solid jobs in Arlington,” Mayor Jim Ross said on Inside Texas Politics.
Mayor Jim Ross is one of the many mayors across the country who signed the letter supporting the bipartisan infrastructure bill. The U.S. Senate already passed the $1 trillion measure. It is now waiting on action in the U.S. House.
“There’s a ton of projects that Arlington needs to get money for,” Ross said. “Here in Arlington, the infrastructure. Taking care of our streets, taking care of our first responders, taking care of our transportation issues are critically important to us.”
And the city’s growth in the here and now will continues with a second hotel and several multi-family apartments and condominiums added to the Entertainment District.
“880 rooms and a brand-new convention center here in Arlington. Just going to be an incredible facility,” he said proudly. “There will be a groundbreaking ceremony any day now, I’m guessing within the next 30 – 45 days.”
Ross Ramsey, the co-founder and executive editor of the Texas Tribune, joined the show to discuss two of the biggest Texas headlines this week:
1. COVID, again (or still?): Schools, mask mandates, threats of federal action, etc. The dress code in Paris probably deserves a shout out. Harris County is paying people $100 to get vaccinated. And more events — concerts, festivals — are requiring patrons to be vaccinated or tested before entering.
2. There's a quorum again in the Texas House. How much is expected to get done in the next 14-days? What's going to happen when they're open for business?
Texas Tribune’s Ross Ramsey, and Abby Livingston, also with the Texas Tribune, were joined by Berna Dean Steptoe, WFAA’s political producer, for a reporter's roundtable.
Up first, they discussed what Lt. Governor Dan Patrick said on Fox News about Black people and COVID-19.
Patrick said, “Democrats like to blame Republicans on that – well, the biggest groups in most states are African Americans who have not been vaccinated. The last time I checked, over 90% vote for Democrats in their major cities and major counties.”
What are the facts? And what was the Lieutenant Governor thinking?
Finally, Congress will take up two big Democratic bills this week: voting rights and infrastructure.
What will likely pass? Is this what Texas Democrats want? How likely is the passage of a national law that could change how Texans vote?
Watch this week's entire episode of Inside Texas Politics below: