After Texas Democrats fled the state for Washington, D.C. in order to deny a quorum needed to pass a controversial elections bill, the Texas House voted Tuesday to have law enforcement track down the absent lawmakers.
When the House was gaveled in at 10 a.m. Tuesday, just 80 members out of 150 were present. As permitted by House rules approved by all members at the start of the session, Republican Chair of the Administration Committee state Rep. Will Metcalf made a “call of the House.” The chamber voted by a 76-4 margin to authorize law enforcement to return the Democrats to Austin.
“Members, the sergeant-at-arms and the officers appointed by him are directed to send for all absentees whose attendance is not excused for the purpose of securing and maintaining their attendance — under warrant of arrest, if necessary,” state House Speaker Dade Phelan said after the vote.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has also threatened the Democrats with arrest upon their return to the state. “As soon as they come back in the state of Texas, they will be arrested, they will be cabined inside the Texas capitol until they get their job done,” Abbott said.
Absent members can be “sent for and arrested” and their attendance be “secured and retained” by the sergeant-at-arms or any appointee, typically state troopers from the Texas Department of Public Safety. However, Texas law enforcement lacks jurisdiction to operate in Washington.
The Four Democrats who were present on the floor voted against the measure: state Reps. Ryan Guillen, Tracy King, Eddie Morales Jr, and John Turner.