Texas law enforcement was deputized and sent to track down absent Democratic lawmakers on Thursday to bring them by force to the state Capitol building.
Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan (R) said that the process of arresting the rogue lawmakers “will begin in earnest immediately,” according to the Texas Tribune. Phelan signed arrest warrants for 52 missing lawmakers on Tuesday, but the possibility of arresting the absent Democrats has been in limbo as many of the lawmakers have sought protection by the courts.
The Texas Supreme Court on Thursday overruled a lower court order blocking the arrest of 45 Democratic lawmakers, clearing the way for Phelan to direct law enforcement to bring the lawmakers into the Capitol by force. The state Supreme Court gave the Democrats a Monday morning deadline for a response.
The missing lawmakers, if arrested, will not be fined or charged with a crime, the Tribune reported. Law enforcement can only bring them to the state House chamber.
Last month, over 50 Democratic House lawmakers fled Texas to Washington, D.C., to protest a GOP-backed election reform bill as well as a host of other legislation. The lawmakers fled the state to avoid the situation they now find themselves in, which is avoiding arrest by law enforcement and being forced on to the floor of the House chamber. As long at the Democrats stayed away from the Capitol, the House lacked the quorum necessary to pass any legislation.
Dozens of members of the D.C. contingent returned to the state over the weekend after the first special session of the Texas legislature ended. Governor Greg Abbott has called another special session on the heels of the first, however, as he and the Republicans attempt to wrangle the missing lawmakers back to the Capitol.
Several of the missing Democratic lawmakers appeared on the House floor on Monday, prompting some backlash from their colleagues who remained in D.C. to continue the protest. As The Daily Wire reported:
On Monday, as many as 95 lawmakers were on the House floor at one time, five lawmakers short of a quorum that would allow the body to then pass bills. Some of the lawmakers on the floor included those Democrats who had returned from Washington, D.C.
“you all threw us under the bus today! Why?” Rep. Ana-Maria Ramos tweeted, tagging fellow Democratic Reps. James Talarico, Mary Gonzalez, and Joe Moody.
Democratic Rep. Gina Hinojosa also piled on, calling out Talarico, Gonzalez, Moody, and Rep. Art Fierro for all appearing on the House floor and risking a quorum.
“For transparency purposes it is important to note that the following Democrats are on the Floor now & no longer breaking quorum: @jamestalarico @RepMaryGonzalez @moodyforelpaso @ArtFierro79,” she tweeted. “Quorum is still not met. Praying no other Democrats willingly go to Floor.”
Democratic state Rep. Jasmine Crockett ripped into the lawmakers that returned to Texas over the weekend: “I’ve said this before… it’s a Team Sport… now we see who plays what positions on the Team… The fact that some of us secured a Temporary Restraining Order to protect ALL of us, yet some are trying to please the Governor and His OPPRESSIVE Agenda?! JUST WOW!”
“We have a vote this week in the US Senate on voting rights. They could at least wait until the vote. There’s nothing so pressing ar [sic] this moment to show up. Not to mention the restraining order allows you to be working in your district instead of on the floor against your district,” she added.
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