- The Washington Times - Monday, July 26, 2021

The Dallas Democratic Party is asking Texans for donations of Dr. Pepper, hair spray, salsa and other goods to send in care packages to lawmakers who fled the Lone Star State to Washington, D.C., in order to stymie a vote on an elections bill.

“Our Dems in DC said they’d appreciate care packages from home. Before 5pm Tues, we’re collecting Dr. Pepper, salsa, hard candy, hairspray, travel toiletries, hand sanitizers, sewing kits, first aid, and/ or $ to pay shipping,” the Dallas Democrats tweeted Saturday.

Responses to the tweet have not all been supportive of the lawmakers’ stunt.

“So the $600K Beto raised for them & their daily per diem is not enough?” tweeted TXLakeGirl2021, referring to former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who donated $600,000 to the Texas House Democrats in Washington to fund their hotel stays.

State representatives in Texas make about $7,000 a year, and many of the representatives are raising funds for the D.C. trip. 

It’s unclear how much money has been raised so far, but Rep. Armando Walle of Houston told NBC News the total cost of the trip is expected to be around $1.5 million. Mr. Walle also said the cost of the private planes was around $100,000, which NBC News reported was paid for by the Texas House Democratic Caucus.

The state House Democratic Caucus did not immediately return a request for comment about the expenses and fundraising.

But Abhi Rahman, a Texas Democratic strategist and former communications director for the Texas Democratic Party, said that while lawmakers are not asking for the care packages they do need money to fund the trip. Still, he said, the representatives would “appreciate” the care packages. 

“I don’t have an exact dollar amount for how much money has been raised, but the money is there to help sustain them as they continue to fight Republican voter suppression in the state that is already the toughest to vote in the country,” he said 

Although the legislators insist taxpayers aren’t footing the bill, Republicans in the state say the Democrats’ protest is costing taxpayers because no legislation is being completed during the session, which is set to end in early August.

“There is no excuse for their PR stunt, and I join thousands of Texans in demanding that these Democrats get back to work,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott recently said. 

Mr. Abbott has also threatened to arrest the Democrats once they return to the state to force them into a special session to get the work done. 

Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, mocked the care package request.

“No Miller Lite?” he tweeted.

More than 50 Texas House Democrats absconded to Washington earlier this month to prevent a quorum on a vote on elections legislation the Republican-led chamber is poised to pass.

All of the Democrats had been vaccinated for the coronavirus and flew maskless on chartered jets to the nation’s capital. But at least six have since tested positive for COVID-19, and the delegation has been in quarantine.

After the Texas Democrats met with Vice President Kamala Harris and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, some of their D.C. staffers also tested positive. 

“At least they are spreading covid in DC, not Austin,” tweeted commenter Kathleen Weaver.

The Texas Tribune reported the lawmakers may stay in the nation’s capital for another two weeks to protest the measure. They have urged Congress to pass federal legislation that would override increased voting requirements passed in red states such as requiring a photo ID.

The Texas legislation would limit drop boxes for mail-in ballots and ban curbside voting. 

A spokesperson from Dallas Democrats did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Dr. Pepper, hair spray, salsa and other items can be obtained at groceries and supermarkets in Washington, as well as be purchased online for delivery by retailers such as Amazon and Walmart. Most of the items cost under $10.

• Alex Swoyer can be reached at aswoyer@washingtontimes.com.

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