Dozens of Texas House Democrats remain absent from the Texas State Capitol in a desperate bid to deny Republicans the quorum necessary to pass major election reform legislation that Democrats strongly oppose.
Prior threats of arrest for the absent Democrats have gone unenforced amid legal challenges, but Texas Republicans have doubled down on the threat and deputized Texas law enforcement officials to serve warrants and actually conduct the arrests when possible, The Daily Wire reported.
The move immediately followed a Texas Supreme Court ruling Thursday that overturned prior rulings from lower state courts blocking efforts to arrest the Democrats who fled the state and halted all legislative progress.
Arrest warrants issued
The Texas Tribune reported that a spokesperson for Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan (R) said that the renewed effort to track down the absent House Democrats and compel their return to the capitol via arrest “will begin in earnest immediately.”
That spokesperson went on to say that state law enforcement officials had been deputized by the House in order “to assist in the House’s efforts to compel a quorum.” Speaker Phelan had already signed off on dozens of arrest warrants for the missing Democrats.
It is worth noting that the arrest warrants are only valid within the state’s jurisdiction — meaning those Democrats who absconded to Washington D.C. and have stayed gone since early July remain out of reach — and carry no criminal penalties or fines, but simply require those arrested to return to the capitol building, where special House rules can compel their constant attendance until the legislative business is complete.
Rift forms among some of the blockading Democrats
While some of the Texas House Democrats who fled the capital and state will undoubtedly remain defiant, it appears that cracks have begun to form in the unified blockade the group of more than 50 Democratic lawmakers initially presented, according to Forbes.
Following the conclusion of the special session Gov. Greg Abbott (R) had called in July, some of the Democrats who fled decided to return to the state, only for Abbott to quickly call for a second special session, as he had previously vowed to do.
At this point, it is believed that at least 26 of the Democrats have remained out of the state and in D.C., and while the majority of those who returned to Texas have continued to avoid the Capitol building, a few actually appeared to return to work as they were spotted in the House chamber — though the chamber was still a few members short of the necessary quorum.
Thrown “under the bus”
The Daily Wire reported separately that the new development of some Dems returning to the Capitol building sparked furious recriminations from their still-absent comrades.
Some of those fierce critiques amounted to accusations of being thrown “under the bus” or not being a “Team” player and risking the chance that a quorum could be met and the election reform legislation be passed by the unified Republican majority.
It now remains to be seen whether Speaker Phelan’s arrest warrants will be enforced or if those Democrats who returned in recent days will flee the state once again to continue the blockade against Texas House Republicans.