Texas Republicans Vote to Arrest Absentee Democrats
AUSTIN, Texas – The Texas House of Representatives on Tuesday authorized state law enforcement to round up and potentially arrest absent Democrats who fled the Republican-led chamber to block action on polarizing election legislation .
The 80: 12 vote authorized the House sergeant-at-arms to send law enforcement officers to compel the missing members “under arrest warrant, if necessary”, but it was not immediately clear if warrants had been issued Tuesday evening.
The Texas House, sitting in Austin, decision came hours after the all-Republican Texas Supreme Court, acting on a petition from Gov. Greg Abbott and Dade Phelan, the president of Texas House, overturned an earlier ruling. The ruling, made by a district court in original Austin County Travis, determined that the two officials, both Republicans, did not have the power to order the arrest of their elected colleagues.
Tuesday’s vote was the second time Republicans at Texas House raised the threat of law enforcement action to compel the presence of the more than four dozen Democrats who locked the chamber in the closing hours of the 2021 legislative session in May to deprive the chamber of a quorum and thus block the adoption of a restrictive electoral measure.
At the end of this session of the state legislature, Governor Abbott called a 30-day special session that ended in failure on Friday after most of the 67 House Democrats remained camped in Washington, D.C. DC, beyond the reach of law enforcement in Texas. In Washington, they pushed Congress to pass federal legislation that would prevent efforts by Republicans in Texas and other states to push forward laws that critics said would stifle voting rights.
Last week, Governor Abbott called for a second session of overtime, which began on Saturday, the day after the first ended, and he pledged to call “special session after special session” to force the adoption of the voting measure as well as other conservatives. priorities.
Eleven Democrats returned to the chamber on Tuesday and united to voice dissenting voices in favor of their absent colleagues. They were joined by a Republican, Lyle Larson of San Antonio, known to sometimes upset his party leadership. Another member registered present but did not vote on the arrests.
The number of Democrats who returned was not enough to bring the House to a quorum, 100 representatives, needed to vote on the overhaul of the election.
While a core of more than 20 Texas House Democrats remain in Washington, an unknown number of their colleagues are believed to be back in Texas and could face arrest if agents begin to search the state for members. missing.
One of the absent Democrats, Celia Israel of Austin said in a statement Tuesday that she and her colleagues had broken the quorum as “our last resort” to block legislation “that will deliberately make it more difficult for Texans to vote freely, safely and to vote. equally “.
Republican state official Matt Krause of Fort Worth said he hoped the threat of an “intense” option like arrest would persuade the missing members to return voluntarily.
“I hope that will wake them up and allow them to say, ‘Okay, it’s time to get back to work,’ he said.
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