On Tuesday, the members of Texas House voted to send law enforcement after Democratic legislators who left the state to block the chamber from passing restrictive voting legislation—and issue warrants for their arrest if necessary—a measure that will likely have little effect while the lawmakers remain out of state, but could be used to eventually pass the legislation whenever they return.
The motion that will allow banning members in attendance from leaving the chamber without first obtaining approval, and enable “the sergeant at arms, or officers appointed by him, send for all absentees … under warrant of arrest if necessary,” voted by the House members brought by Rep. Will Metcalf, chair of the House Administration Committee to record present session members.
Fifty-seven Democratic House lawmakers left the state on Monday and traveled to Washington, D.C., in order to prevent the chamber from having the quorum necessary to pass a restrictive voting bill and other Republican-led legislation during its 30-day special session.
The remaining members of the Texas House voted 76-4 Tuesday to issue a “call of the House,” which prevents members from coming or leaving the chamber, and then in a separate vote authorized the sergeant-at-arms to “send for all absentees…under warrant of arrest if necessary.”
The sergeant-at-arms doesn’t have jurisdiction outside of Texas, however, meaning Democratic lawmakers are likely safe from arrest and cannot be forced to come back to the House as long as they remain in Washington, D.C., and law enforcement there doesn’t cooperate with Texas’ warrants for their arrest.
The lawmakers could face arrest whenever they return to Texas, with Gov. Greg Abbott saying Monday the Democrats “will be arrested” and “cabined inside the Texas Capitol until they get their job done” as soon as they return to the state.
Abbott told Lubbock radio host Chad Hasty on Tuesday that the fleeing Democrats should lose any committee leadership posts they hold. State Rep. Tony Tinderholt attempted to bring forth a motion to do just that if the Democrat members do not return by Wednesday at noon. The motion, however, did not proceed, however, as removing committee chairs and vice-chairs is against chamber rules.
Abbott released a video message on Monday saying the fleeing Democrats’ refusal to “show up for work” was inflicting “harm” on constituents.
Democrats must get back to the job they were elected to do.
Their constituents must not be denied important resources simply because their elected representatives refused to show up to work. pic.twitter.com/dGC9DceRaZ
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) July 12, 2021
Abbott also appeared on Fox News with host Laura Ingraham and said, “Once they step back into the state they will be arrested and brought back to the Capitol and we will be conducting business.”
“Isn’t this the most un-Texan thing you’ve ever heard — Texans running from a fight? They’re quitters,” Abbott also said.
It is the second time in just months that the state Democrats have prevented a quorum. On May 30, they walked out of the legislative session hours before an anticipated vote.
In a Twitter post, those Democrat lawmakers who chose to flee were slammed by other Texas lawmakers.
“Enjoy the all-expenses paid charter jet and vacation in DC. But you really should be earning your taxpayer-provided income rather than running and hiding,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) wrote on Twitter.
Enjoy the all expenses paid charter jet and vacation in DC. But you really should be earning your taxpayer provided income rather than running and hiding. https://t.co/gb7yTtxXqw
— Senator John Cornyn (@JohnCornyn) July 13, 2021
In a statement, Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) said the Democrats were “pathetic.”
“Hard to imagine a more delusional group of people – thinking that lying about these bills, hopping on a chartered flight, sipping beer, and skipping work is ‘sacrifice,’” Crenshaw tweeted. “You guys are pathetic. Totally pathetic.”
Hard to imagine a more delusional group of people – thinking that lying about these bills, hopping on a chartered flight, sipping beer, and skipping work is “sacrifice.”
You guys are pathetic. Totally pathetic. https://t.co/bdvKavOr1J
— Dan Crenshaw (@DanCrenshawTX) July 13, 2021
“These delinquents are doing this to kill a bill that does things like make voting hours across counties the same,” Crenshaw continued in a separate tweet. “There isn’t a single thing in these bills that is “voter suppression.” This is a giant charade. Texans should be furious, and vote all of these children out of office.”
These delinquents are doing this to kill a bill that does things like make voting hours across counties the same. There isn’t a single thing in these bills that is “voter suppression.” This a giant charade. Texans should be furious, and vote all of these children out of office. https://t.co/8ZCB8vtMDK
— Dan Crenshaw (@DanCrenshawTX) July 13, 2021