The 52 Texas House Democrats who fled the state last month to block election integrity legislation were declaring victory just a few days ago when an activist judge in Austin signed an order to block enforcement of the arrest warrants put out for them.
Early Tuesday, however, Republican leaders asked the Texas Supreme Court to overturn that order, and the justices quickly agreed. House Speaker Dade Phelan signed civil arrest warrants for the recalcitrant Democrats late Tuesday, after the chamber voted 80-12 to force the runaway Dems to return to the statehouse, according to The Dallas Morning News.
Life coming at this dude so fast… pic.twitter.com/eOcr5gPpFG
— Bonchie (@bonchieredstate) August 11, 2021
The warrants have set in motion the potential round-up of lawmakers who’ve returned home from Washington, D.C., but have avoided the Texas Capitol in order to stymie the bill. The Republicans need to achieve the quorum in order to advance the legislation.
Civil arrests are allowed under the Texas Constitution as a way to force lawmakers to show up for their jobs.
“People aren’t going to jail, but they got to come back to work,” Republican state Rep. Mayes Middleton said.
The warrants will be delivered to the House sergeant-at-arms on Wednesday morning, Phelan’s spokesman Enrique Marquez told the Dallas Morning News.
Grand Prairie Rep. Chris Turner, who chairs the Texas House Democratic Caucus, said Tuesday 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,” he said in a statement.
One Republican voted against authorizing arrest warrants: Rep. Lyle Larson of San Antonio, who has been openly critical of the elections bill that Gov. Greg Abbott has demanded.
“Have we got to the point where we believe our own bull shizz so much that we arrest our own colleagues,” Larson tweeted. “Civil discourse took a nasty turn today.”
Fugitive Democrats remain defiant, and an untold number are outside the reach of the House sergeant-at-arms and state troopers.
“I just question whether DPS or anyone can break down my door to come and put me in shackles and drag me there,” Rep. Vikki Goodwin, D-Austin, told The Dallas Morning News. “I feel certain that I can stay in my home, and stay off the House floor.”
At least two dozen House Democrats have stayed in Washington, D.C., where 57 of them camped out for all or most of a month to run out the clock on Abbott’s first special session.
“We broke quorum because anti-voter bills are nefarious attempts to disenfranchise Texans & these authoritarian motions by Republicans just cement that we are on the right side of history,” Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin, wrote on Twitter. “We must hold the line against these desperate attempts to destroy our democracy.”
House Democrats originally fled the state capitol to Washington, D.C., in July during the first special session to break quorum and halt GOP-backed voting legislation from passing, which they say will make it harder for minorities and people with disabilities to vote.
House Republicans argue the legislation will make elections more secure and streamlined across the state.
Democrats were able to stop the legislation from passing during the first special session, but Gov. Greg Abbott called for a second session, which began this past weekend.
On Monday, a Texas Senate committee voted to advance the voting regulations bill, named Senate Bill 1, according to the Texas Tribune.
At least six of the Texas Democrats tested positive for COVID-19 after fleeing to Washington D.C., last month.
The 24 or so progressives who remain in D.C. have reportedly been pressuring the Dems who have returned to Texas to stay away from Austin, but several, including Rep. James Talarico, have returned to the House.
“We had many heated debates in Washington as we debated our own next steps,” said Talarico. “I’m going to keep those arguments in private. But I know emotions are rightfully running high everywhere, and it’s been a difficult month.”
Texas Rep. Ana-Maria Ramos, who remains in D.C., lashed out at Talarico and the others on Twitter Monday for returning to Austin.
— Representative Ana-Maria Ramos (@Ramos4Texas) August 9, 2021