Texas Democrats Face Covid Outbreak and a Stalled Voting Rights Push

Because of the outbreak, meetings and conferences that would have taken place in person are now on screens. Plans for at least the next week have been frozen.

“Everybody is scrambling because the realization is hitting that this new strain is among us and is very contagious even among people who are vaccinated,” Gina Hinojosa, a state representative from Austin, said.

On Tuesday morning, the delegation met over a video call with Representative James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, the third-ranking House Democrat. Mr. Clyburn, Ms. Hinojosa said, remains optimistic that the Senate can pass a federal voting rights overhaul before early August, when the current special session of the Texas Legislature will expire. (Mr. Abbott has promised to call a new one if Democrats do not return by Aug. 6, when the session ends.)

Mr. Clyburn encouraged the Texans, they said, to push to have a key measure in the proposed John Lewis Voting Rights Act — the Justice Department’s preclearance requirements, under which a number of states mostly in the South had to receive federal approval before changing voting laws — transferred to the more comprehensive For the People Act, which passed the House and remains stalled in the Senate.

A representative for Mr. Clyburn did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Later on Tuesday, the Texas Democratic delegation, whose members are now undergoing daily virus tests, hosted a virtual news conference, reiterating the long history of civil rights and voting rights battles and reaffirming their commitment to push Congress and the White House to pass federal voting legislation.

But the members were confined to pixelated Zoom boxes, and some of them simply had avatars appear when they spoke, or black boxes with their names half obscured.

“We have a very robust agenda in terms of continued outreach to members of Congress,” said State Representative Ron Reynolds, who represents the Houston area. “We’re still working diligently through the Covid protocols that we’ve already set in place.”

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