Even after heavy persuasion attempts from former President Donald Trump, Gov. Greg Abbott did not provide any aid to enact two election bills pushed by Trump this fall.
One would have eased up the process for requesting an election audit, and another would have raised the penalty for the crime of illegal voting.
Despite being called out in public for not doing enough to advance them, Abbott never put the audit bill on the call, stressing that his own efforts through the Secretary of State’s office would be sufficient. Both bills passed quickly in the Senate in early October, yet neither received a committee hearing in the House.
“It’s clear the president was driving the narrative on much of this,” said Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston, adding that the failure of these bills “does show you the limitation of Donald Trump on these voting issues.”
According to the Houston Chronicle, Phelan has not voiced his opinion on the audit bill, but made his position clear on the illegal voting bill, saying he did not wish to “relitigate” a bill that had passed out of the chamber with majority support.
The voting bill had been the focus of the Legislature since early this year, driving the Democrats to leave the Capitol building, and then the state, to deny the Republicans the attendance needed to make a vote. The bill ultimately passed in late August.
That eight-month fixation on the one issue could also contribute to why the latest election-related bills flamed out, Rottinghaus said.
It is still to be seen how failing to deliver the legislation might affect Trump’s endorsement of Abbott, who faces two challengers in the GOP gubernatorial primary.
“Despite my big win in Texas, I hear Texans want an election audit!” Trump said in a letter last month appealing directly to Abbott. “Your Third Special Session is the perfect, and maybe last, opportunity to pass this audit bill. Time is running out.”
According to Rottinghaus, some members might be waiting to see if the election restrictions and other reforms passed earlier this year would prove sufficient before moving forward with a controversial audit bill.
“I think many of the members are willing to put the pin in the grenade for now and wait to see how this plays out,” he said.