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Texas House Orders Arrest Of Dems Who Fled State Over Voting Bill By 80-12 Vote

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The Texas House just dealt the fleeing Dem lawmakers a big blow and overwhelmingly voted to issue arrest warrants for those who fled the state to stop a vote on a GOP election bill.

The 80 to 12 landslide vote to issue arrest warrants is bad news for the Dem lawmakers and came after Texas’ Supreme Court overturned a temporary restraining order that blocked the lawmakers from being arrested by a lower court.

According to the Supreme Court’s ruling, Democrats who refuse to show up for the Legislature can be detained by law enforcement. They could be frogmarched back to the state Capitol as well after the Texas Supreme Court overturned a state district judge’s temporary restraining order.

The high court’s order came after Gov. Greg Abbott and House Speaker Dade Phelan petitioned the court to overturn the ruling by a Travis County district judge blocking the GOP from ordering the arrest of the Democrats. 

“The Supreme Court of Texas swiftly rejected this dangerous attempt by Texas Democrats to undermine our Constitution and avoid doing the job they were elected to do,” said Renae Eze, an Abbott spokeswoman. “We look forward to the Supreme Court upholding the rule of law and stopping another stall tactic by the Texas Democrats.”

Democratic State Reps. Trey Martinez Fischer of San Antonio, Gina Hinojosa of Austin and Jasmine Crockett of Dallas, said:

“It is no surprise that Republican Governor Greg Abbott and House Speaker Dade Phelan want to arrest their political opponents. Thankfully, this is still the United States of America. We will defend the freedom to vote, and we look forward to our temporary injunction hearing on August 20th.”

“There’s no way in hell I’m going to that House floor while I’ve got the protection of a judge’s order,” State Rep. Celia Israel, D-Austin, said.

From The Texas Tribune:

The Texas House voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to authorize law enforcement to track down Democrats absent from the chamber and bring them back to the state Capitol, “under warrant of arrest, if necessary.”

The 80-12 vote came hours after the Texas Supreme Court ordered that those missing Democrats, many of whom left the state last month to block a GOP voting bill, could soon be detained by state authorities. The order by the all-GOP court came at the request of Gov. Greg Abbott and House Speaker Dade Phelan, fellow Republicans who had asked the court Monday to overturn a ruling from a state district judge that blocked those leaders from ordering the arrest of the quorum-breaking Democrats.

Since the Legislature gaveled in Saturday for its second special session ordered by Abbott, the House has been unable to make a quorum as dozens of Democrats have remained absent from the chamber.

From The Texas Tribune:

The state also argued that the Supreme Court’s action is warranted because the House speaker is immune from suits for legislative acts.

“Compelling the attendance of absent members by the House is a quintessential legislative act,” the state’s motion read, adding that Urrutia’s “hasty” order “ignores this fundamental principle.”

The state also argued that the House Democrats’ claims are “quintessential political questions” that lie beyond a court’s power to decide. The House’s rules allow for present members to compel the attendance of missing lawmakers, and at least 41 other states have similar provisions in their constitutions, the motion read.

In a response, lawyers for the House Democrats who received the temporary restraining order said the state sought an order that will free it to “to forcibly arrest political opponents who have committed no crime.”

Unlike other states, whose rules only require the presence of a majority of members to reach quorum, Texas requires a two-thirds supermajority “because the framers of the Texas Constitution prioritized high levels of participation and consensus-building in legislative decision making, even if it increased the costs of the process and the possibility that the process could deadlock,” the Democrats’ lawyers argued.

“In other words, the architects of the Texas government fully expected, and even encouraged, the power of a cohesive minority of members to ‘bust the quorum’ as a means of participation in the decision-making process,” their response read, adding that the Democrats were “acting like true Texans.”