The Texas Supreme Court has ruled that House Democrats who refuse to show up for the Legislature can be detained by law enforcement and brought back to the state Capitol.
“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,” Eze added.
In July, a group of Democrats flew from Texas to Washington, D.C. on a chartered flight to prevent the Texas House from voting on measures to protect voter integrity, a bill prohibiting biological males from competing in women’s sports, and immigration restrictions. Texas Democrats lobbied in Washington, D.C., for the passage of the For the People “voter rights” act, which sparked a small COVID-19 outbreak.
Some of the Democrats returned to Texas after several weeks away — and around $1.5 million in expenses — leaving about two dozen in the nation’s capital.
When the legislators left Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott said they would be arrested if they showed up to vote, but on Monday, a judge signed an order temporarily blocking the governor from carrying out his threat.
“The order, signed by Travis County State District Judge Brad Urrutia, keeps Republican Gov. Greg Abbott and Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan from ‘issuing any warrant or other instrument’ and ‘detaining, confining, or otherwise restricting a Texas House Democrat’s movement without his or her consent,’” according to CNN. The order also restricts law enforcement officers from arresting the “quorum-busting” Dems.
The Texas Supreme Court overturned that measure on Tuesday, “temporarily block[ing] a state district judge’s temporary restraining order that had prevented the arrest of Texas House Democrats, who left the state last month in an attempt to stop the passage of restrictive voting bills,” CNN said in a separate report. “The ruling means that many of the Democratic lawmakers who returned to Texas but continue to break quorum during the second session could now be at risk for arrest if the House votes to compel their attendance.”
The Texas House has yet to reach a quorum, preventing lawmakers from voting to compel attendance at a special session, saving Texas Democrats from facing law enforcement for the time being.
The ruling on Tuesday was praised by Abbott’s office. The Supreme Court “swiftly rejected this dangerous attempt by Texas Democrats to undermine our Constitution and avoid doing the job they were elected to do,” according to a statement from the governor’s office.
“We look forward to the Supreme Court upholding the rule of law and stopping another stall tactic by the Texas Democrats,” the spokesperson added.
The Hill noted Tuesday that “another special session is currently underway” in the Texas House “to again try to pass the legislation.” That session began Saturday but has not yet reached quorum. On Monday night, the House voted to institute a “call to the House,” which means that legislators cannot leave the session except by express written permission from the Speaker.