A leading Texas lawmaker signed arrest warrants for the 52 Democrats who fled Austin to avoid voting on a controversial GOP election reform bill they claim would infringe the abilities of minorities to cast ballots.
House Speaker Dade Phelan signed the warrants late Tuesday, after the chamber voted 80-12 to force the runway lawmakers to return to the statehouse, according to The Dallas Morning News.
The move came hours after the Texas Supreme Court authorized using law enforcement to impel Democrats who hightailed it to Washington, DC a month ago to lobby for federal voting reforms, to return and vote on the measure, according to the report.
The new partisan arrest warrants are civil, not criminal, Republicans said.
“People aren’t going to jail, but they got to come back to work,” Republican state Rep. Mayes Middleton said.
Less than half of the renegade Lone Star cohort remains in DC as progressives pressure Dems who have returned to Texas to stay away from Austin. Several, including Rep. James Talarico, have returned to the House, further fracturing intraparty tensions.
“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.”
“You threw us under the bus today! Why?” Rep. Ana-Maria Ramos tweeted alongside a picture of Talarico and other Dems on the floor of the House.
Rep. Celia Israel returned to Austin but said “there is no way” she would go to the Texas House.
“Every day that we can not be on the floor doing business according to Gov. Abbott’s agenda is a good day,” Israel said.
Republicans needed five more lawmakers for a quorum to move forward with a tweaked voting measure Tuesday. The abridged proposal — among numerous restriction bills around the country influenced by former President Trump’s false election fraud claims — would ban 24-hour polling locations, drive-thru voting and give politicians more control of the voting process in the red state.
A Brennan Center analysis of national voting laws in 2020 found that Texas already had the strictest polling measures in the US.
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,” according to the Morning News.
Nearly two dozen Democrats sued Gov. Greg Abbott and other state GOP leaders last week, claiming efforts to bring them back to Austin for a special session violated their rights.
The lack of a quorum has handcuffed officials from acting on other urgent state business, including the doling out federal COVID-19 relief funds as Texas reels from surging cases of the highly contagious Delta variant.
With Post Wires