WASHINGTON — They met with Vice President Kamala Harris on their first full day in Washington. But as the Texas House Democrats’ weeks-long crusade for voting rights in the nation’s capital stretches on, their long-coveted meeting with President Joe Biden remains elusive.
“I’m at the point where I’m pissed off that Joe Biden, our president, not only won’t meet with us — he’s not gonna meet with us, he’s gonna use COVID as an excuse not to meet with us — but he won’t even Zoom,” Rep. Richard Raymond of Laredo said Thursday during a virtual meeting with U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett of Austin.
At least six Texas Democrats tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this week. But members, now holed up in their hotel conducting virtual meetings with voting rights leaders, remain undeterred.
On Thursday, they exhorted Beto O’ Rourke — a former congressman from El Paso and now an outspoken party activist — to leverage his ties inside the Biden administration and wrangle a meeting between the president and the Texas members.
Members praised O’Rourke’s fundraising efforts, which he said so far have brought in more than $600,000 in funding. In a press conference Thursday, O’Rourke said his organization, Powered by People, has so far received donations from 17,861 people. The average contribution amount is $36.
“You’ve literally put food on our table. You’ve packed our parachute,” said Rep. Penny Shaw of Houston. “We’re eternally grateful. You are sustaining us.”
“We couldn’t be doing this without you,” added Rep. Rafael Anchia of Dallas.
In return, O’Rourke lauded the Democrats for their efforts, saying they’ve inspired him and people across the country. He said he will do everything he can to convince the president to meet with them.
“[Biden] absolutely must do more,” he said with a promise to call members of Biden’s administration to push for the much-coveted meeting. “The least he could do, in my opinion, is to meet with you and listen to you and to hear it directly from you.”
Delegation leadership were optimistic that the president will eventually come around.
“We anticipate that before we leave... that we’re going to meet with President Biden,” Anchia said. “We know he has a lot on his plate... but we also know that he holds deeply in his heart a reverence for voting rights.”