At least 58 Democratic lawmakers left Austin on Monday to paralyze the chamber until they return to the Texas Capitol. The majority of the lawmakers boarded private planes to Washington, D.C., to meet with federal officials after their GOP colleagues pushed two pieces of legislation that would ban certain ballot-casting processes and require more identification for voting.
At around 10 a.m., Republicans discovered they lacked a two-thirds quorum when they tried to bring one of the bills to a vote with only 80 of the normal 150-member government body. They voted to send police to track down the missing legislators “under warrant of arrest if necessary.” Two motions to initiate the move passed by an overwhelming 76-4 margin.
All no-votes were Democrats who opted not to vacate the state's Capitol. Republican state Rep. Tony Tinderholt tried to strip the Democrats of their committee assignments if they do not return by Wednesday, though that proceeding did not come to a vote.
On Monday, Gov. Greg Abbott indicated that the fleeing lawmakers "will be arrested" upon their return to Texas after dozens were seen in photographs posing for maskless pictures on private jets.
ON PLANE TO DC: Texas Democratic lawmakers are leaving state to break quorum to stop Republican voting bill. Veteran Capitol observers say this is unchartered territory. Photo from Democrat on the plane. https://t.co/YOuOMb0A2m pic.twitter.com/abWoARvFIC
— ScottGordonNBC5 (@ScottGordonNBC5) July 12, 2021
"What the law is, it's in the Constitution, and that is the House, the state House of Representatives, who were here in the Capitol, in Austin right now, they do have the ability to issue a call to have their fellow members who are not showing up to be arrested, but only so long as that arrest is made in the state of Texas," Abbott said on Fox News. "That's why they have fled the state."
"Once they step back into the state of Texas, they will be arrested and brought to the Texas Capitol, and we will be conducting business," he added.
Under the Texas Constitution, two-thirds of lawmakers must be present to conduct business, and those who evade the task may be legally required to return.
At the direction of Abbott, a special session was called Thursday, and GOP legislators introduced Senate Bill 1 and House Bill 3, a pair of legislation that would ban drive-thru voting, implement more comprehensive voter identification requirements for mail-in ballots, and prohibit officials from sending voting applications to those who did not request them.
Similar bills were introduced in May, though Democrats staged an eleventh-hour walkout and voting on the matter was halted. The Democratic lawmakers said Monday that their most recent act of protest was done to resist "dangerous legislation" that would "trample" on voting rights in the state.
"Today, Texas House Democrats stand united in our decision to break quorum and refuse to let the Republican-led legislature force through dangerous legislation that would trample on Texans' freedom to vote," the state House Democratic Caucus said in a joint statement.
"We are now taking the fight to our nation's Capitol," the group added. "We are living on borrowed time in Texas. We need Congress to act now to pass the 'For the People Act' and the 'John Lewis Voting Rights Act' to protect Texans — and all Americans — from the Trump Republicans' nationwide war on democracy."
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Original Author: Jake Dima