The speaker of the Texas House of Representatives signed arrest warrants for 52 Democratic lawmakers who left the state to avoid a vote in the chamber.
Dade Phelan, who presides over the legislature, called the Democrats “fugitives” and signed the arrest warrants to force them to return to the House. The 52 arrest warrants will be delivered to the House security chief.
The motion to compel the Democratic lawmakers to return was approved by a vote of 80 to 12.
The move came hours after the Texas Supreme Court authorized the use of law enforcement to pressure Democrats and force them to fulfill their role in the state.
Democrats in Texas “are not going to jail”
Texas law allows lawmakers who are absent during votes to be arrested and forced to return to the House.
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According to The Dallas Morning News, this is partisan civil and not criminal arrest. “They’re not going to jail, but they have to go back to work,” said Republican state Rep. Mayes Middleton.
Less than half of the Democratic legislators remain in Washington while others, including Rep. James Talarico, have already returned to the House, a situation that generated an internal rift in the party.
Of the 67 House Democrats, 63 were absent from Monday’s special legislative session, denying Republicans the quorum they needed to pass a Republican bill that officially aims to make elections more secure by banning drive-in voting, introducing restrictions on voting hours and voting by mail.
Nearly two dozen Democrats sued Gov. Greg Abbott and other state Republican leaders last week, alleging that efforts to bring them back to Austin violated their rights.
The lack of a quorum has prevented officials from acting on other pressing state issues, including the distribution of federal pandemic relief funds.