Texas Governor Greg Abbott said Monday night that the Democrat lawmakers who fled to Washington DC to prevent a vote on two voter integrity bills will be arrested upon their return.
Earlier Monday, at least 58 Democrats left Austin in two private jets—chartered at a cost of $100,000—according to the Daily Mail.
Smiling House Dems fly off to DC on a private jet with a case of Miller Lite, breaking House quorum, abandoning their constituents, while the Senate still works. It’s my hope that Senate Dems report tomorrow to do what they were elected to do. We will vote on #SB1. #txlege pic.twitter.com/5Kcc4emNFg
— Dan Patrick (@DanPatrick) July 12, 2021
Gov. Abbott told Fox News host Laura Ingraham that “once they step back into the state of Texas, they will be arrested and brought to the Texas capital and we will be conducting business.”
“Isn’t that the most un-Texan thing you have ever heard? Texans running from a fight?” he asked.
“They are quitters. It’s like during a football game or baseball game taking their equipment when they are way behind and just leaving the field. That is not the way that Texans do things,” the governor added.
When they abandoned the state, the Democrats broke the quorum of two-thirds of lawmakers being present in the House, thus preventing a vote on the voter integrity legislation.
On Sunday, lawmakers passed two voting measures, House Bill 3 and Senate Bill 1, which add an ID requirement for mail-in ballots, and roll back emergency COVID-19 changes, such as drive-through voting and 24-hour and late-night voting. The legislation also adds new criminal penalties for those violating voting laws, and empowers poll watchers. GOP leaders planned to reconvene for the final vote on Tuesday.
The Democrats could be arrested in Texas under a procedure known as “a call of the House,” which allows law enforcement to track down lawmakers who have fled the chamber.
This isn’t the first time state Democrat lawmakers have fled a state to avoid doing the people’s business. In 2011, Wisconsin Democrats fled to a Best Western resort in Rockford, Illinois, to avoid planned state Senate vote on slashing Wisconsin public worker pensions and curbing their unions. The contentious vote was stalled because the 33-member Senate needed to have 20 present for a quorum and none of the Democrats showed up. The Wisconsin constitution prohibits the arrest of lawmakers during a legislative session unless they’re accused of “treason, felony or breach of the peace,” so the Democrats faced no real political, or legal consequences for fleeing.
In 2003, Texas Democrats fled to Oklahoma to block the Republicans’ plan to redraw the state’s congressional districts. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said on Fox News Tuesday that at the time, the Speaker of the House had asked Abbott, then-the attorney general of Texas, if he had the authority to have them arrested. Cruz said that as the newly appointed solicitor general of Texas, he was given the job of researching the answer to that question.
“It turns out the answer is yes,” Cruz said. “Under the Texas Constitution, there’s a provision that explicitly gives the Speaker the authority to arrest fleeing House members. That provision is copied word-for-word from the U.S. Constitution,” he continued. “So this stunt is going to fail. They’re going to come back, there’s going to be a quorum, and I believe the legislature will do its job and protect the integrity of elections.”
Abbott said the behavior is anti-democratic. “They are leaving and abandoning their right to vote,” he told Ingraham.
Trey Martinez, one of the Democrats, said he was prepared to wait-out multiple 30-day sessions, telling CNN he was in it for the long haul.
‘They are trying to take away our right to vote and, and we’re not going to put up with it. We are going to fight,’ he said.
The jets were paid for by the House Democratic caucus, they said – but they have begun fundraising to allow them to stay in D.C.
Abbott told Ingraham that the lawmakers are still “living off of the government dime” because they’re “still getting taxpayer-based money and their staffs are still getting taxpayer-based money.”
He added: “All the while, they are doing fund-raising projects online, trying to raise money for this.”
Abbott also told Ingraham that Democrats were wrong to say that the new bills would restrict voting, as the legislation actually increases voting hours.
“This Texas law doesn’t hinder anybody’s abilities to vote,” he said. “Interestingly, when Texas is seeking to do is add additional hours to vote.”
The governor pointed out that Texas has twelve days of early voting and the legislation actually expands the hours of early and election day voting, “so their entire thesis is completely wrong.”
In a statement posted online Monday, Abbott said the Democrats’ decision to break quorum and flee the state “inflicts harm on the very Texans who elected them to serve.” The governor pointed out that in their absence, other important bills dealing with property tax relief, funding for law enforcement, and funding for children in the Texas Foster Care system were being delayed as well.
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
In a press conference in D.C. on Tuesday, the Texas Democrats vowed to stay in the nation’s capital for as long as it takes to block the Texas House from considering the voter integrity measure. The lawmakers also sang a awkwardly discordant rendition of the civil rights anthem “We Shall Overcome” for the cameras.
WATCH: Texas Democrats sing "We Shall Overcome" on Capitol Hill after leaving the Lone State State in bid to block state Republicans' push to revise the election and voting laws. https://t.co/WgvdkCWtv3 pic.twitter.com/nKggXJbYZg
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) July 13, 2021
“We are not going to buckle to the ‘Big Lie’ in the state of Texas.… We said no during the regular session and we are saying no during the special session,” said state Rep. Rafael Anchia of Dallas, chair of the Mexican-American Legislative Caucus.
Rep. Jasmine Crockett (D-Dallas) celebrated the fact that Democrats are preventing other bills from being passed. “We’re killing anti-trans kids legislation, we’re killing stupid bail reform that is going the opposite direction. We’re killing a ton of bad bills…. You wanna talk about people wasting taxpayer dollars? It’s not us.”
Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) blasted the fugitives, accusing them of a “highly orchestrated and ethically dubious act of political theater.”
Kamala Harris meanwhile praised them for their “extraordinary courage and commitment” in protecting “the rights of all Americans.”
“I applaud them standing for the rights of all Americans, and all Texans to express their voice through their vote, unencumbered,” Harris said. “I do believe that fighting for the right to vote is as American as apple pie”‘ she added
Many Republicans however see their political stunt as more of a commitment to protect voter fraud.
Democrats are working so hard to stop election integrity that it makes it seem like they think the only way they can win elections is if fraud is permitted via loose oversight.
— Mollie (@MZHemingway) July 13, 2021
A new poll shows that Texans oppose state legislators using procedural maneuvers to prevent voting by a two to one margin.
More than half of Texans—54 percent—said they do not support staged walkouts to prevent legislative quorum. Only 27 percent of Texans said they support the move.
“Walkouts are only supported by the extreme left,” said Chief Communications Officer Brian Phillips. “Most Texans see it as a childish and desperate move, and they don’t like temper tantrums. We can have respectful disagreements and energetic debates. But the process must move forward. There will be a side that gets the votes and side that doesn’t. If one side can abuse the rules to prevent votes, then we cease to have a functioning democracy. The left is embarrassing themselves and Texas.”
What’s left of the Texas House on Tuesday voted 76-4 to to direct the sergeant at arms to retrieve the absent members “by warrant of arrest, if necessary.”
State Rep. Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie, chair of the Democratic caucus in the Texas House, “shrugged off the threat,” the Dallas Morning News reported.
“Well, best I know, Texas law enforcement doesn’t have jurisdiction outside the state of Texas,” he said outside the U.S. Capitol.