Drama is unfolding in the Texas House after Democrat lawmakers fled the state to avoid voting on key Republican bills.
Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan (R) has issued arrest warrants for Texas Democrats in the House who left the state in July in an attempt to sabotage the legislative branch.
The charges were issued when the Texas Supreme Court interfered; in doing so, they reversed a lower court decision that prevented the lawmakers from being arrested and forcing their return to the Texas House of Representatives.
What was the decision of the Texas Supreme Court?
On Tuesday, the Texas Supreme Court overturned an order by Travis County District Judge Brad Urrutia (D); this order was prohibiting the Texas House from detaining, confining, and or restraining House Democrats who escaped to Washington, D.C. last month.
BREAKING: the @SupremeCourt_TX has issued a stay in @GovAbbott's and @DadePhelan's petition to stop an Austin judge from blocking arrest warrants for fled Democrat members. #txlege
Background: https://t.co/zHPxGR3p5k https://t.co/OG9hitsiLc pic.twitter.com/qXQgKo5JCk
— Isaiah Mitchell (@IsaiahMitch_tx) August 10, 2021
Gov. Greg Abbott (R) and Phelan, according to Urrutia, misinterpreted rules that allowed for the detention and enforced return of the missing legislators.
The Texas Supreme Court, on the other hand, disagreed and overturned Urrutia’s preliminary injunction, which prevented state House Democrats from being arrested.
So, what exactly did Phelan do?
Following the high court’s decision, the Texas House voted 80-12 to empower the Texas House commanding officer to search down the absent Democrat lawmakers, arrest them, and compel their repatriation in order to restore quorum.
A judge has issued an order blocking the arrests of the Texas Democrats who left the state to prevent a GOP effort to pass voting restrictions — paving the way for their return home without risking arrest, as Gov. Greg Abbott has threatened. https://t.co/wvcGxtOB4p
— Axios (@axios) August 9, 2021
According to the Texas Tribune, after the decision, Phelan signed 52 civil arrest warrants for the remaining Democrat leaders. The warrants will be handed to the commanding officer for service Wednesday afternoon, according to the speaker’s spokeswoman.
The 52 warrants constitute the rest of the 67-member Democrat Caucus in the Texas House of Representatives. At least four House Democrats departed from DC on Monday, according to TheBlaze, a choice that enraged their comrades who remained in the country’s capital.
Those who returned were humiliated, shunned, and accused of undermining others who refused to return. The Texas House will be within five people of recovering the quorum necessary to implement business, thanks to the arrival of the four members.
The Texas Legislature was unable to undertake business during the special new parliamentary session, which began on Saturday, due to a lack of the two-thirds quorum necessary.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Texas has raised constitutional concerns with Gov. Greg Abbott's border security operation, arguing the arrests could interfere with people’s right to seek asylum in the United States. https://t.co/AnnK1MaOly
— Texas Tribune (@TexasTribune) August 3, 2021
What was the Democrats’ response? It’s Not Surprising
According to the Tribune, Texas House Liberal Caucus Chairman Chris Turner reacted to the warrants issued by asserting that absent lawmakers are completely within their rights as legislators to violate quorum to defend our constituents.
After failing to achieve the legislative responsibilities they pledged to voters, some liberal caucus lawmakers have attempted to portray themselves as martyrs.
In reality, Abbott, Phelan, as well as a third of Texas conservatives were sued by almost two dozen Texas House Democrats on Friday. The lawsuit says that the conservatives have violated their fundamental rights and have “ripped them of freedom.”