A sixth member of the Texas Democratic delegation that fled to Washington, D.C., last week to block Republican bills has now tested positive for Covid-19, with lawmakers coming under increasing criticism for traveling maskless while packed together on a private plane.
State Rep. Donna Howard, an Austin-based Democrat, said in a statement to media on Tuesday that a Covid test she took Monday came back positive.
Howard—like all the other Democrats on the trip—had been fully vaccinated, and said she’s “basically asymptomatic except for some minor congestion.”
Fifty-seven House Democrats left Texas for Washington, D.C., on July 12, packing into a private jet with photos of the trip showing no masks in sight.
Unlike commercial aircraft, masks are not required for private flights, but that hasn’t stopped criticism from being lobbed at the delegation as the Delta variant causes more breakthrough cases.
Texas state Rep. Gene Wu, who traveled to D.C., tweeted Monday that Democrats “got sloppy,” while warning, “let our mistake be the object lesson.”
Wu also noted: “every member who tested positive had only mild (sniffles) or no symptoms.”
What To Watch For
The outbreak appears to no longer be confined to Texas lawmakers. Drew Hammill, a spokesman for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, said in a statement on Tuesday that a senior Pelosi aide has tested positive after coming into contact with a group of the Texas Democrats last week. The aide has had no contact with Pelosi since being exposed, Hammill said.
Democrats left Texas in order to prevent a quorum from being present in the Texas House for a 30-day special session ordered by Gov. Greg Abbott (R), which would block any legislation from being passed. The session was called in large part to pass a sweeping set of voting rules that would ban drive-through voting, which was introduced in 2020, and make it more difficult to vote by mail, among other restrictions. Texas Democrats have been meeting with Democratic lawmakers in Washington since leaving the state, as part of an effort to push Congress to pass voting protections. A group of Texas Democrats also met last week with Vice President Kamala Harris, who’s since taken a Covid test, which came back negative, the White House confirmed on Monday.
U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.)—an outspoken critic of Covid restrictions—mocked the Texas lawmakers last week, tweeting, “Didn’t realize Texas Dems supported my repeal of the mask mandates!”
What We Don’t Know
The Texas House Democratic Caucus has said it will not identify the lawmakers who have tested positive for Covid-19, but three have publicly acknowledged a positive test. Along with Howard, Rep. Celia Israel and Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer said they’ve tested positive.