At Least 51 Democrat legislators in the state’s House of Representatives left Austin, Texas late Monday afternoon in an effort to deny a quorum, which is the minimum numbers necessary in the chamber to conduct business. It was reported that the lawmakers flew to Washington, D.C. in two separate private jets.
The Texas House voted Tuesday in a 76-4 vote to authorize law enforcement to return the Democrats to Austin after they flew to Washington, D.C. to prevent the elections bill from passing in a special legislative session.
“Members, the sergeant-at-arms and the officers appointed by him are directed to send for all absentees whose attendance is not excused for the purpose of securing and maintaining their attendance – under warrant of arrest, if necessary,” state House Speaker Dade Phelan (R) said after the vote.
It is not clear precisely how much power the vote has, given that Texas law enforcement lacks any jurisdiction to operate in Washington, D.C.
The plan of the Democratic Texas lawmakers is to lobby in favor of the For the People Act, the Democratic election, and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.
The legislation on the table would implement limits on early voting, curbside voting and drop boxes, prohibit round-the-clock voting centers and voting facilities in outdoor structure like parking garages, and scrap straight-ticket voting, among other things.
While Republicans touted the bill as a needed measure to ensure election security, despite no evidence emerging of widespread irregularities or wrongdoing in the 2020 cycle. Democrats are panning the effort as voter suppression.
Republican Gov. Greg Abbott called a special session starting on Thursday for the state legislature to pass the voting legislation, among other issues. The session will expire on Tuesday, and Abbott promised Tuesday that the state’s lawmakers would be arrested upon return.
Abbott told KVUE that once the state House Democrats return to Texas, “they will be arrested, they will be cabined inside the Texas Capitol until they get their job done.” If legislation still needs to be dealt with, the governor can call another special session.
The task for the Democrats lawmakers will be an uphill battle. The Texas House of Representatives is composed of 83 Republicans and 67 Democrats, while Republicans hold 18 seats to Democrats’ 13 seats in the 31-member Senate, a far cry from the slim majority that Democrats hold in Washington.