(The Center Square) – Texas Speaker of the House Dade Phelan signed arrest warrants for 52 House Democrats after the state Supreme Court granted Gov. Greg Abbott two wins in lawsuits related to the Democratic lawmakers fleeing the state to put a halt to legislative activity.
The House voted 80-12 to implement a procedural move called a Call of the House, allowing for the arrest of lawmakers absent without permission and brought to Austin for legislative business.
Under House rules, voting on legislation requires a quorum, but votes to compel attendance of absent members, or to adjourn, do not require a quorum.
The warrants were delivered to the House sergeant-at-arms Wednesday.
"While a bipartisan group of members honored their duty to their constituents and the legislative process by showing up day after day, the Texas House could not address important issues such as approving a 13th check for our retired teachers, improving our foster care system, and passing crucial legislation on bail reform and election integrity because a number of Democrats deliberately broke quorum,” Phelan said of a 30-day special legislative session that ended with not action.
The “Texas House remains committed to fulfilling its responsibilities as soon our Democratic colleagues return from Washington or from their vacations abroad," he added.
One Republican who voted against arresting his colleagues, Rep. Lyle Larson of San Antonio, tweeted, “Arresting members to come to the house floor. Have we got to the point where we believe our own [expletive] so much that we arrest our own colleagues. Civil discourse took a nasty turn today.”
After the Supreme Court ruling, Abbott said, “the Supreme Court of Texas swiftly rejected this dangerous attempt by Texas Democrats to undermine our Constitution and avoid doing the job they were elected to do.”
Instead of accepting the Texas Supreme Court’s ruling, Texas House Democrats said they would seek a temporary injunction with a district court judge.
“It is no surprise that Republican Governor Greg Abbott and House Speaker Dade Phelan want to arrest their political opponents. Thankfully, this is still the United States of America. We will defend the freedom to vote, and we look forward to our temporary injunction hearing on August 20th,” Reps. Trey Martinez Fischer, Gina Hinojosa, and Jasmine Crockett said in a statement.
They also appear to plan to block quorum as long as possible. Rep. Chris Turner, House Democratic Caucus Chair, said it’s “fully within our rights as legislators to break quorum to protect our constituents. Texas House Democrats are committed to fighting with everything we have against Republicans’ attacks on our freedom to vote.”
Rep. Vikki Goodwin, D-Austin, told The Dallas Morning News, “I just question whether DPS or anyone can break down my door to come and put me in shackles and drag me there. I feel certain that I can stay in my home, and stay off the House floor.”
According to the House rules, if Goodwin or any other Democrat who has an arrest warrant issued for them and she or they are physically in Texas, they can be be arrested but brought back to the House chamber.
Magnolia Republican Rep. Cecil Bell told a grassroots political web show, The Undercurrent, “They just need to put them all in handcuffs, drag them in, throw them in the middle of chambers, lock the doors and unhandcuff ‘em… a couple of them would go bug-eyed crazy.”
A second special legislative session began Saturday with Democrats still absent and still blocking legislative business. One hundred house members are needed to make quorum to conduct legislative business.
Democrats said they decided to flee the state to block a vote on Abbott's election reforms.