Texas Democrat Armando Walle (pictured at the White House on July 16, 2021) revealed it will cost around $1.5 million to fund the group’s stay in Washington, D.C. through the end of the special legislative session on August 7
A Texas Democrat said Monday the runaways will need $1.5 million to stay in D.C. until August 7 – while another member admitted it was a mistake to go maskless on private jets after five contracted COVID.
Fundraising efforts ensued last week to help pay for the trip as the group insists no taxpayer money is being used for their stunt.
State Representative Armando Walle told NBC News in a report published Monday that the cost of keeping the group of around 60 lawmakers in the nation’s capital for the remainder of the special session would reach around $1.5 million.
The group chartered two private jets at $100,000 to get the majority of the runaway members to D.C. last Monday. Housing, food and other transportation costs will make up the bulk of the remaining expenses, Walle explained.
Upon arriving in D.C., the group checked into the Washington Plaza Hotel in the northwest quadrant of the city. Rooms in the swanky hotel start at $200 per night and amenities include an outdoor swimming pool – a rarity for district hotels.
Last week, a few dozen Democrats fled from Austin to break quorum and block Republicans’ from passing two separate voting rights bills in a special session called by Texas Governor Greg Abbott.
The group insisted they plan to stay in the nation’s capital until the end of that session, which concludes on August 7. Abbott, however, can just call another special session when this one ends. The legislative body also voted to arrest the Democrats once they step foot back in the state.
When fleeing, the lawmakers posted several selfies taunting Republicans where they were seen maskless on coach buses and the crowded planes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention still says transportation like planes, buses and trains should require masks regardless of vaccination status.
As of Sunday, five of the Texas Democrats tested positive for coronavirus. All five were vaccinated.
Walle posted an image of himself wearing a mask at a laundromat in D.C. this month
‘ALWAYS MASK UP INDOORS!’: Texas Democrat Gene Wu also admitted he and his colleagues made a ‘mistake’ by not masking up on their flights to D.C. – after five vaccinated members tested positive for COVID following meetings with the vice president and lawmakers
He also posted an image of a group of the Texas Democrats posing on one of the two jets chartered at $100,000, where none are wearing a face covering. The CDC recommends all people, regardless of vaccinated status, wear masks on transportation like planes and buses
‘Let our mistake be the object lesson,’ Texas Representative Gene Wu tweeted on Monday.
‘All of us had been fully vaccinated since March. We got complacent because we felt safe. We had no positives for months, and we got sloppy,’ he continued. ‘Being vaccinated doesn’t ALWAYS stop you from spreading the virus.’
Wu asserted: ‘ALWAYS MASK UP INDOORS!’
On Tuesday, before the positive diagnoses, the group met with Vice President Kamala Harris.
It is not immediately clear who is fronting the bill for the Democrats’ month-long stay in D.C., but the lawmakers expect to be reimbursed, partly with funds raised from supporters and partly from other entities.
For example, the Mexican American Legislative Caucus has used some of its funds to cover costs so far.
The chartered jets were paid for by a wire transfer from the Texas House Democratic Caucus hours before takeoff last Monday.
Legislators have also revealed that they have picked up costs on their personal credit cards or from their campaign accounts.
The Plaza Hotel bill was booked on a member’s personal America Express card, one lawmaker revealed.
The group is staying in the Washington Plaza Hotel in northwest D.C., which featured an outdoor pool
Rooms in the hotel start at $200-per-night, and the bulk of the rest of the $1.5 million costs are made up by food and other transportation costs. A whopping $100,000 was spent to charter their two private jets from Austin to D.C.
Democratic State Representative Donna Howard was mocked on Thursday after posting a picture of her clothes, saying she washed them in her sink
Republicans insist that taxpayer dollars are somehow being used to put the Democrats up in the city.
On Sunday, two more Texas Democrats announced they tested positive for coronavirus after they packed onto private jets without masks and fled to Washington, D.C. last Monday.
The news comes just one day after three of their colleagues also reported Saturday that they had contracted the virus.
San Antonio-area Representative Trey Martinez Fischer said on Sunday he was among the two new positive tests.
Earlier on Sunday, Congresswoman Celia Israel, who represents an Austin district, revealed she was among the initial group of three to test positive – but tried to claim that catching Covid was a noble ‘sacrifice’.
‘I hope this instance highlights the sacrifice we are willing to make for the cause of democracy. I would not change anything to protect the right to vote’, she said, the Washington Times reports.
The announcements came after the pair had spent days touring Washington, giving media interviews, addressing crowds and even meeting Vice President Kamala Harris.
On Sunday Harris visited Walter Reed Medical Center for a ‘routine’ checkup, but her office insisted she wouldn’t be qurantining or getting tested as she is fully vaccinated.
Last Monday, 58 Democratic lawmakers packed into two private jets, chartered at a whopping $100,000, to flee from Texas to Washington, D.C. in order to sabotage Republican’s two voting rights bills.
They shared maskless selfies on their coach with a case of Miller Lite as they made their way to Austin Bergstrom airport for the flight to the capital where they have vowed to stay for 30 days to stop the passage of two bills making their way through the Texas legislature.
The Texas House voted last week to have them arrested when they return to the state and Republicans have criticized them for blocking other bills – such as more money for retired teachers and bail reform – during their stunt.
The runaway Democrats are now planning a virtual ‘tour’ this week with national advocates and voting rights leaders to try and pile the pressure on Congress to pass the For The People Act.
San Antonio Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer (left) said Sunday he was among the two new positive tests. Austin Rep. Celia Israel (right) confirmed she was among the initial group of three to test positive
Rep. Israel revealed on Sunday that she had tested positive for COVID on Saturday
Rep. Martinez Fischer released a lengthy statement following him testing positive for COVID
Other Texas lawmakers joined the group in D.C., but made their own travel arrangements.
During the exodus from the Lone Star State, the Democrats snapped selfies on buses and planes to taunt their Republicans rivals. The images, however, revealed none were adhering to CDC guidelines to wear face coverings on public transportation.
‘Today, I received a positive COVID-19 rapid antigen test result. I am fully vaccinated, and had tested negative on Friday and Saturday. I am quarantining until I test negative, and I am grateful to be only experiencing extremely mild symptoms,’ Fischer said in a statement.
Earlier on Sunday, Austin Rep. Celia Israel said in a statement: ‘After given notice Friday evening that a colleague tested positive for COVID-19, I and my colleagues immediately took rapid antigen tests.
‘While I tested negative, a subsequent test Saturday morning revealed I was now COVID positive. Let this be a reminder that COVID-19 is still very much among us, with infection rates on the rise and more contagious variants spreading nationwide. While I am fully vaccinated, this will not 100% prevent infection.’
The House Democratic Caucus said it would not identify lawmakers who test positive out of respect for their privacy.
All five lawmakers are in self-isolation and will stay there for at least 10 days.
The mass testing began after one member tested positive for the coronavirus on Friday night and immediately alerted colleagues who proceeded to take rapid tests.
On Saturday morning, two additional members tested positive.
The Democrats’ departure paralyzed the Texas state house as the legislature requires a quorum of two-thirds of lawmakers be present to conduct business.
The vice president’s office confirmed Harris would not be getting tested for COVID-19, despite the potential contact with the virus, and that she would not be quarantining.
A White House official said on Sunday that Harris’ visit to Walter Reed is just a ‘routine doctor’s appointment’, and asserted it doesn’t have to do with her meeting with Texas Democrats. Harris met with the Texas lawmakers on Tuesday.
The check up comes the afternoon after Harris tweeted: ‘The Delta variant is no joke. Get vaccinated.’
On Saturday evening, Harris’ spokesperson Symone Sanders said the vice president did not have direct contact with the individuals who tested positive, and therefore would not be getting tested for the virus or quarantining.
Celia Israel (circled left) and Trey Martinez Fischer (circled right) were among scores of Texas Democrats who met with Vice President Kamala Harris on July 13. Both later tested positive for COVID
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer met with the Texas Democrats including Martinez Fischer (circled)
Texas Democrats including Rep. Celia Israel (circled) meet with Kristen Gillibrand
Massachusetts progressive Senator Elizabeth Warren met with the group of runaway Texas lawmakers at the Capitol on Wednesday
‘On Tuesday, July 13th, Vice President Harris met with members of the Texas state legislature who are temporarily in Washington, D.C. Earlier today, it was brought to our attention that two of the members at that meeting tested positive for COVID-19,’ Sanders said in a statement.
‘Based on the timeline of these positive tests,’ Sanders continued, ‘it was determined the Vice President and her staff present at the meeting were not at risk of exposure because they were not in close contact with those who tested positive and therefore do not need to be tested or quarantined.’
‘The Vice President and her staff are fully vaccinated,’ she added.
At least three of the Texas lawmakers who tested positive for the virus were also vaccinated.
No masks were worn during the meeting with the lawmakers and vice president.
As of Sunday night, five of the runaways tested positive for coronavirus – four days after meeting with Harris.
Questions immediately emerged over whether the vice president would quarantine, but her staff assured Saturday that she was not in close contact with the three lawmakers in question, even though two were present at the meeting Tuesday.
Since coming to the district, the group of 60-plus has been staying at a plush hotel in the nation’s capital and schmoozing with many high-powered politicians. They even met with Vice President Kamala Harris during a closed-door meeting on Tuesday.
Kamala Harris’ team said she would not get tested for the virus or quarantine. The vice president did, however, go to Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland (right) on Sunday for a ‘routine doctor’s appointment’
TEXAS’ VOTING RIGHTS BILLS: WHAT’S IN THEM AND WHY THE DEMOCRATS THINK THEY ‘RESTRICT’ ELECTIONS
- The bills – House Bill 3 and Senate Bill 1 – were filed last week during a special legislative session called by Texas Governor Greg Abbott.
- The proposed legislation creates harsher criminal penalties for people who help voters at the polls or those planning to vote by mail.
- The bills, if passed, would be a ban on 24-hour voting. Instead, there would be a new voting window from 6am to 10pm on election day.
- Rules would require residents to fill out paperwork if you are taking someone who is not a relative to vote in person.
- Regulations would require someone to exit their car during curbside voting.
- Bills would mean voters would have to provide their drivers license or the last four digits of their social security number to cast a ballot.
- New rules would stop local election officials from sending out mail-in ballots to those who haven’t requested them.
- Drive-in voting would be banned.
- Expands what partisan poll watchers can observe during counts.
- Prohibits poll watchers from being removed for violating election laws.
- Both bills would increase early voting from eight to nine hours.
- Also lowers the population threshold required for counties to provide at least 12 hours of early voting each weekday of the second week of early voting.
- Protects the legitimacy of elections and avoids fraud, according to Republicans.
Democrats argue that:
- The measures included in the bills would mainly stop minority communities and shift workers from voting because of the restricted hours.
- The regulations in the bills would make it harder to control disruptive partisan poll watchers.
- Would make it easier for losing candidates to try and overturn election results and harass winning candidates with court battles and recounts.
- Democrats also claim the provisions do nothing to make elections more secure in Texas.
- Insists the proposed legislation would help further the claims of election fraud Donald Trump has made in the aftermath of the 2020 election.
- Argue that restricted voting hours on a Sunday would have impacted the ability of black churchgoers, also known as ‘souls of the polls’, to cast their ballots.
- They instead want the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act to be passed by Congress to address elections on a federal level.
- But Republicans insist that this is a power grab and would represent a ‘federal takeover’ of elections
Several of the Texas Democrats have publicly endorsed wearing face masks, but it seems they are not so enthused about using the coverings in private. The Austin American Statesman claims that the group has only used masks ‘sparingly’ at meetings in DC.
Senator Elizabeth Warren met with a group on Capitol Hill on Wednesday.
The Massachusetts senator’s office did not immediately respond to DailyMail.com when asked if Warren would get tested or quarantine.
Texas State Representative Briscoe Cain told Fox News he thought the news of the COVID positive tests was an ‘excuse to avoid coming back’ and face a vote on the elections overhaul bill.
‘I say prove it,’ Cain said of the positive results. ‘They want a reason to do a 14-day quarantine; they don’t want to come back and do their jobs. If they really have it, prove it.’
According to the Austin American Statesman, ‘there was a notable increase in the use of face coverings among lawmakers and Democratic staffers at their hotel on Saturday morning’.
In a statement on Saturday, Rep. Chris Turner, the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said: ‘The House Democratic Caucus is following all CDC guidance and protocols.
‘This is a sober reminder that COVID is still with us, and though vaccinations offer tremendous protection, we still must take necessary precautions. We are in touch with public health experts in Texas to provide additional guidance. Our caucus will follow all recommendations from public health experts as we continue our work.’
The Texas Democrats fled the Lone Star State in order to break a quorum and block the Republican-controlled Texas State House from passing new voting rights legislation.
Republicans are seeking to pass two new ‘election integrity’ bills, whereby voting would be allowed on election days from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. and mail voters would also be asked to verify their identities with a state ID number or the last four digits of their Social Security number.
But Democrats have called the bills ‘restrictive’ and say they are designed to turn citizens off voting and restrict access to the polls in minority communities.
The group fled from Texas before the bills could be voted on, and they plan to wait out the full 30-day legislative session in Washington D.C.
Democrats posted images from their exodus, including several on buses and planes where they were not wearing masks
The group are staying at the Washington Plaza Hotel, where rooms start at $199 a night.
Their decision to flee infuriated their Republican rivals, who have voted to arrest them when they return to the state.
‘Members, a sergeant-at-arms and any officer appointed by him are directed to send for all absentees whose attendance is not excused for the purpose of securing and maintaining their attendance under warrant of arrest if necessary,’ Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan announced from the State House floor after the vote on Tuesday.
Texas House rules allow the sergeant-at-arms to arrest members who are not present at the Capitol for a vote.
Meanwhile, the Democrats have been in D.C. portraying themselves as heroes in the fight against voter suppression.
VP Harris praised the group, as did Senator Warren, who met with them on Wednesday.
President Biden has not met with the lawmakers but, in a statement, ‘praised their courage’.
Several of the Democratic Reps have also been active on social media, including Rep. Donna Howard who posted a picture of her wet laundry after she was forced to clean it in the sink at her hotel.
‘You bet we’re recognizing & honoring our country’s heritage’, she wrote on Twitter . ‘As most Texans, tho, this is what we’re doing tonight – using whatever is accessible, washing our clothes in the sink’.
She included a picture of her leopard print t-shirt and panties, three plain pairs of underpants, and a bra drying over the shower rail in her hotel room.
Howard was widely mocked for sharing the picture from her hotel bedroom, with many pointing out she had plenty of time to pack before leaving Texas .
‘You had plenty of time to pack a bag tho’, one user wrote.
Another pointed out she could easily have had her clothes washed at a nearby laundromat, and suggested the tweet was a joke.
‘I can walk two blocks to a laundromat and have them wash, dry, and fold my clothes in like 3 hours for $.75/lb. How is this not a bit?’
Others responded sarcastically to the runaway Texan Democrat, saying: ‘We are in awe of your sacrifice. I cannot even fathom how you are staying strong through these difficult times. A true hero’, one user wrote.
The tweet comes after fellow runaway Democrat Gene Wu trolled Fox News after it picked up a picture of his ‘first meal as a fugitive’ – a caesar salad – after he posted an image on Twitter.
He followed up with a series of food related tweets and joked he was now working as a Fox News reporter.
‘ BREAKING NEWS Fox News!’ Gene Wu wrote on Twitter Wednesday morning. ‘Democrat’s breakfast only includes fruit, yogurt, and coffee!’
He included an image of his breakfast, likely a continental offering at the $199 per night Washington Plaza Hotel.
‘No steak? No whiskey? What a wuss!’ the Democratic Texas lawmaker sarcastically continued in his tweet. ‘(You should pay me… being a Fox News reporter is easy as falling off the back of a pickup truck.)’
During a press conference in front of the Capitol on Tuesday morning, the large group broke out into song with a Civil Rights-era gospel, and getting the words wrong in claiming ‘we will overcome’ after arriving in D.C. on a pair of jets that cost them $100,000 to charter.
‘I’m not worried about the threat of being arrested,’ Texas State Representative Jasmine Crockett told CNN the morning after arriving in D.C.
‘I don’t worry probably because I know the law,’ she continued. ‘I’ve not committed a crime , so I can’t get arrested.’
Martinez Fischer said Tuesday that the group of around 60 lawmakers plan to wait out the full 30-day legislative session in Washington D.C.
‘This is the risk that we take to stand up for democracy,’ he told CNN.