The battle over compelling Texas Democratic legislators to show up for work escalated Wednesday when House Speaker Dade Phelan signed warrants to round up the absent Democrats.
That prompted a reply from the leader of the runaway legislators that they are doing their jobs even if they never set foot in Texas again.
The clash of wills began when Republicans crafted an election integrity bill that Democrats said was an attack on their constituents. Democrats walked out of the legislative chamber in May — thus preventing a quorum from being present — to prevent the bill from being passed.
After Republican Gov. Greg Abbott called a special legislative session in July, Democrats fled the state for Washington, D.C., rather than be within reach of any legal mechanism within Texas that could force them to show up and vote.
That session expired, and a new one has begun with most of the Democrats who fled in July still ensconced in Washington hotels.
On Tuesday, the Texas Supreme Court upheld the right of the state House to compel members to attend and arrest them if they would not come on their own, leading to action from the House, on an 80-12 vote, to authorize Speaker Dade Phelan to issue civil arrest warrants to round up Democrats and get on with the business of legislating.
Phelen issued warrants for 52 absent Democrats, according to The Dallas Morning News.
Democratic Rep. Chris Turner said all this legal stuff does not matter because Democrats are “fully within our rights as legislators to break quorum to protect our constituents.”
“Texas House Democrats are committed to fighting with everything we have against Republicans’ attacks on our freedom to vote,” he said in a statement.
Others say they will defy the warrants.
“I just question whether DPS or anyone can break down my door to come and put me in shackles and drag me there,” Democratic Rep. Vikki Goodwin said. “I feel certain that I can stay in my home, and stay off the House floor.”
Although Democrats have projected a united front, some members have returned in dribs and drabs so that as of Monday, the House was only four members short of a quorum.
Some Republicans are losing patience.
“They just need to put them all in handcuffs, drag them in, throw them in the middle of chambers, lock the doors and unhandcuff ’em … a couple of them would go bug-eyed crazy,” Republican state Rep. Cecil Bell vented.
Rep. Jim Murphy, head of the House Republican Caucus, said he would prefer the just get on with the work facing legislators.
“I think it’s incredible that we would have to consider arresting people to have them perform the office they campaigned for and honor the obligation they swore to uphold,” Murphy said, according to the Austin American-Statesman.
Republican state Rep. Matt Krause said he hoped that Democrats would bow to the inevitable and return, according to The New York Times.
“I hope this kind of wakes them up and allows them to say, ‘All right, it’s time to get back to work,’” he said.
Via The Western Journal.