The Texas Speaker of the House has authorized an arrest warrant for a Democrat who fled the state with other partisans to block an election bill earlier this month.
Speaker Dade Phelan (R) called on the sergeant-at-arms to arrest Democratic state Rep. Philip Cortez when he returns to Texas, the Washington Examiner reported.
Deception over leaving state
The escalation comes after Cortez fled Texas not once, but twice.
On July 12, he absconded to Washington, D.C. with a group of nearly 60 Democrats to disrupt a special session called by Governor Greg Abbott (R).
He returned to Texas last week for “good faith dialogue,” angering some in his party, but then went back to Washington again, where he vowed to remain “until the special session ends” and “fight for the freedom to vote for all Texans.”
“After discussions on improving House Bill 3 have not produced progress, I have rejoined my Democratic colleagues in Washington, D.C,” Cortez said.
Phelan complained that Cortez deceived him after being given permission to temporarily leave the House chamber. “As a condition of being granted permission to temporarily leave the House floor, Rep. Cortez promised his House colleagues that he would return,” Phelan said. “Instead, he fled the state.”
Dem “irrevocably” damaged trust
He accused Cortez of having “irrevocably” damaged “the trust of this chamber” and threatened to have Cortez arrested when he returns a second time.
But the civil warrant, the first to be issued since Republicans threatened to arrest their Democratic counterparts, is effectively toothless until he comes back.
The Texas Democrats have been hailed as “heroes” by allies frustrated with a lack of progress on so-called “voting rights” legislation, but their escapade took a turn for the worse when several members tested positive for COVId-19 and exposed White House staff.
They have vowed to stay in Washington for the rest of the session, but Governor Abbott says he will call another special session to pass the legislation if needed, the Texas Tribune noted.
While Democrats have dramatically described the Texas voting bill and others like it as comparable to the “Jim Crow” era, the Texas bill merely seeks to strengthen voter ID requirements and reverses the extraordinary changes made to accommodate voters during the COVID-19 pandemic.