Texas Democrats on Wednesday continued to deny Republicans a quorum in the House, as Speaker Dade Phelan delivered 52 civil arrest warrants to state law enforcement to corral the absent members.
A group of nearly 60 Democrats left the state a month ago in an attempt to block passage of a GOP-backed voting bill during the first special session of the year and most have yet to return to the Capitol.
Four days into the second special session, House Republicans on Tuesday voted to direct state law enforcement to bring absent members to the floor, the second time such a vote has been taken during the quorum-bust. The use of civil arrest warrants is not mandatory under the vote, but an option that Phelan, a Republican from Beaumont, has decided to use.
The House gaveled in briefly on Wednesday for those lawmakers present on the floor to collect their permission slips to leave the chamber for the day. The chamber will return to session at 4 p.m. Thursday.
More: Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan signs civil arrest warrants to return absent Democrats to chamber
“The speaker issued this warrant for my arrest last night,” state Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, D-Austin, said in a tweet. “Arresting me is the only way they will get me back in that House.”
Rodriguez is one of a group of more than a dozen members remaining in Washington, even as other Democrats have returned home to Texas or traveled to other locations outside of the state. Democrats were able to avoid the reach of state law enforcement during the first special session of the year by crossing state lines.
They left the state to block passage of legislation to make changes to voting procedures in Texas that Republicans say will improve election integrity but Democrats argue will disenfranchise Texas voters, primarily people of color.
Some Democrats have returned to the floor during the second special session, including Reps. James Talarico of Round Rock, Bobby Guerra of Mission, Eddie Lucio III of Brownsville and Joe Moody, Mary Gonzalez and Art Fierro of El Paso.
Phelan did not sign arrest warrants for those members, or for other Democrats who have been back in the chamber or never participated in the quorum break, including Reps. Terry Canales of Edinburg, Harold Dutton of Houston, Ryan Guillen of Rio Grande City, Tracy King of Batesville, Oscar Longoria of Mission, Eddie Morales Jr. of Eagle Pass and John Turner of Dallas.
More: Texas House approves arrest of absent Democrats after Supreme Court steps in
He also did not sign a warrant for Rep. Garnet Coleman of Houston, who stayed in Texas to recover from a major surgery in May.
Some Democrats have challenged Phelan’s authority to issue civil arrest warrants, filing two lawsuits in response to the warrants and other Republican efforts to bring them back to the House floor. One case was filed in federal court, and argues that these GOP efforts infringe on their constitutional rights. That is still pending.
The other case was filed in a Travis County state district court, where a judge issued an order to prohibit the arrest of absent members that was later blocked by the Texas Supreme Court in response to an emergency petition from Phelan and Gov. Greg Abbott.
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