Dozens of Texas House Democrats fled the state last weekend in a bid to block the passage of a Republican-backed election reform bill by denying quorum during a special legislative session called by the governor.
That move is not without consequences, however, as Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan (R) announced Thursday that he had stripped the title and leadership position of one of the head absconders of the Democratic group, Rep. Joe Moody (D), The Daily Wire reported.
Phelan did not provide any reasoning in his statement stripping Moody of his position and title as speaker pro tem, but there was really no need as it is obvious to all why the punishment was rendered.
Loss of title and pay
In a short, one-sentence memo shared by Texas Tribune reporter Cassi Pollock, Speaker Phelan proclaimed, “Pursuant to my authority under House Rule 1 Section 10, I have relieved Representative Joe Moody from his position as Speaker Pro Tempore for the 87th Legislature, effective immediately.”
Rep. Moody appeared defiant and nonplussed by the move, however, and wrote in a response tweet, “The most important titles in my life will never change: Dad, Husband, El Pasoan. Nothing political has ever even cracked the top three, so nothing has changed about who I am or what my values are.
According to a reporter for the Dallas Morning News, Phelan also released a statement revealing the names of the Texas Democrats who had fled to Washington D.C. to avoid the special session but had not yet made arrangements to return the legislative per diem they had been paid for serving in that special session.
Consequences and repercussions
Meanwhile, The Daily Wire noted that other Texas Republicans, including members of the House as well as Gov. Greg Abbott (R), had also taken action or expressed their intentions to hold the absent Democrats accountable for ditching their legislative duties and fleeing to Washington D.C.
The Texas House on Tuesday invoked a previously unanimously passed rule that would allow for Texas law enforcement to arrest the Democratic lawmakers and compel their return to the state Capitol building in Austin, albeit only if those Democrats were caught within the state’s jurisdiction, which obviously doesn’t extend to D.C.
Gov. Abbott had expressed his support for such a move in an interview Monday with local ABC affiliate KVUE, in which he said those Democrats “will be arrested” upon their eventual return to the state.
Abbott doubles down
Asked what he could do as governor in response to the Democrats fleeing to D.C. to break quorum on the month-long special session, Abbott replied, “I can and I will continue to call a special session after special session after special session all the way up until election next year.”
“And so if these people want to be hanging out wherever they’re hanging out on this taxpayer-paid junket, they’re going to have to be prepared to do it for well over a year,” the governor added. “As soon as they come back in the state of Texas, they will be arrested, they will be cabined inside the Texas Capitol until they get their job done.”
It remains to be seen if the loss of titles, leadership positions, legislative pay, and the threat of arrest will compel the Democrats to return to the state Capitol, or if their newfound national fame among the ideological left will encourage them to continue to avoid their duties and responsibilities as elected representatives of the people of Texas.