KEY POINTS

  • Two more Texas Dems who walked out of the state last week have contracted COVID-19
  • Texas Democrats fled to Washington to prevent the passing of an election bill that they said will further restrain voter access
  • Costs have been rising as the Democrats attempt to hold out until the bill’s session ends

Two more Texas Democrats who fled the state last week to avoid a voting bill have tested positive for COVID-19. Three others tested positive earlier.

In a statement, the Texas House Democratic Caucus said there are now five COVID-19 positive cases among the Democrats who fled to Washington, D.C. last week, adding that the positive members were either asymptomatic or had mild symptoms, The Hill reported.

So far, only Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer has confirmed that he is one of the Democrats who tested positive over the weekend. The first in the group to have been infected with COVID-19 was Rep. Celia Israel. The other three are yet to be named.

The Austin American Statesman reported that the Democrats who tested positive took rapid COVID-19 tests which do not provide the same accurate results as PCR coronavirus tests.

The caucus said all of the members who tested positive were fully vaccinated. According to the newspaper, the members will take a PCR test and take precautions to isolate for 10 days, followed by a test afterwards.

The caucus also said that it will carry out rapid tests on all Texas Democrat members, including staff, who traveled to Washington.

The infected group of Texas Democrats recently met with Vice President Kamala Harris, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) since they arrived in Washington. 

Senior adviser and chief spokesperson for Harris, Symone Sanders, said over the weekend that neither Harris nor her staff were exposed to the infected members. An aide for Manchin also said that the senator was not exposed to any of the positive cases.

The caucus has been criticized following the release of photos showing members without masks inside a private charter flight after leaving Texas.

Republican Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) took to Twitter on Sunday, seemingly making fun of news about the positive cases among Texas Democrats.

Former Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) responded to Brooks, stating that the Republican representative’s comments were “a low point even for someone who help instigate an insurrection.”

Meanwhile, questions have arisen regarding the funding of Texas House Democrats who are expected to stay in Washington for several weeks.

So far, two private jets have been paid by the caucus to transport the politicians, The Texas Tribune reported. Other expenses such as food and accommodation have been shared with the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, the outlet added.

However, costs for staying in the capital are expected to continue climbing as the days pass. Texas Rep. Chris Turner said the caucus is “not worried” about increasing costs. He said the goal is to stay out of Texas “until this session is over to kill this bill.”

Earlier last week, Senate Republicans approved the controversial bill in a party-line vote of 18-4, CNBC reported.

Known as Senate Bill 1, the proposal seeks to ban drive-through voting. The bill could also block absentee voting applications for citizens ineligible of voting by mail.

Democrats say that the bill is “an attack on voter access and will further suppress voter turnout.”

GOP Gov. Greg Abbott has called for a 30-day special session, but if the Democrats who fled – at least 58 of them – refuse to return before the session ends, the legislation is expected to weaken.

Supporters say Senate Bill 7 is designed to make voting more secure, but critics say it aims to make it more cumbersome for ethnic-minority voters, who tend to vote Democrat Supporters say Senate Bill 7 is designed to make voting more secure, but critics say it aims to make it more cumbersome for ethnic-minority voters, who tend to vote Democrat Photo: AFP / Sergio Flores