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Texas House speaker signs arrest warrants for 52 missing Democratic members

Republican Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan officially signed civil arrests warrants for 52 Democratic lawmakers who broke quorum for the third time over voting rights, according to Phelan spokesperson Enrique Marquez. 

The decision was approved after the Texas House voted 80-12 to move forward with the arrests for absent members, which enabled Phelan to issue the warrants. It’s the second time that such a vote has been taking during ongoing quorum-bust.

The Texas Supreme Court on Tuesday also overturned a trial court judge’s ruling that would have prevented absent Democrats from being arrested.

It all comes in an effort to achieve the quorum needed to advance legislation, in this case, specifically on voting rights in Texas.

Texas House Speaker Dade Phelon, serving the 21st District of the State, signed 52 civil arrests warrants on Tuesday for missing Democrats who have denied Republicans a quorum for more than three weeks 

Democrats were hoping that they would break what’s called a quorum — the minimum number of lawmakers required to conduct official business — by fleeing the state to stop Republicans’ agenda to potentially ban drive-thru and 24-hour voting, among other sweeping restrictions. 

The warrants, first reported by the Dallas Morning News, will be delivered to the House Sergeant-at-arms ‘for service’ on Wednesday morning, according to Marquez. 

The warrants were signed after democrats failed to show up during the fifth day of the House’s second special session, leaving the chamber eight members short of a quorum. 

The warrants for the 52 absent Democrats will be delivered to the House Sergeant-at-Arms on Wednesday morning

The warrants for the 52 absent Democrats will be delivered to the House Sergeant-at-Arms on Wednesday morning

In the first special session, Phelan signed a warrant for only one democrat — Rep. Phil Cortez — who fled to Washington with other Democrats, returned to Austin so that he could check in at the Texas Capitol before returning to D.C. yet again. 

While Texas representatives would not face jail time if arrested, they may be brought to the state’s Capitol by law enforcement once the House Sergeant-at-Arms puts the warrants in motion to be served.

The number of House Democrats who have returned to Texas is still unknown since 57 of a total of 67 of them fled to Washington in July, which led to an exodus that forced the House to wait on new voting restrictions while allowing Democrats to advocate for federal voting rights protections in the U.S. Senate. 

While voting and ethics legislation passed in D.C.’s capitol on Wednesday, 26 Texas Democrats vowed to remain in D.C. ‘for as long as Congress is working and making progress’ on the issue of voting rights, enabling themselves to be within the reach of Texas law enforcement.

Texas State Rep. Chris Turner (District 101), Chair of the Texas House Democratic Caucus, was joined by fellow Democratic Texas state representatives in a speech during a news conference about voting right outside the U.S. Capitol on August 6

Texas State Rep. Chris Turner (District 101), Chair of the Texas House Democratic Caucus, was joined by fellow Democratic Texas state representatives in a speech during a news conference about voting right outside the U.S. Capitol on August 6

Texas State Rep. Senfronia Thompson (District 141) was many of Texas Democrats to continue to lobby for voting right reform in D.C. after leaving Texas to block a voting restrictions bill by denying a Republican quorum

Texas State Rep. Senfronia Thompson (District 141) was many of Texas Democrats to continue to lobby for voting right reform in D.C. after leaving Texas to block a voting restrictions bill by denying a Republican quorum

Rep. Celia Israel, who serves the 50th district of Texas, returned to her home in the outskirts of Austin but hasn’t been to the State Capitol, where the House meets. 

She said told the Washington Post on Tuesday night that she isn’t afraid of getting arrested but admitted the House is in unfamiliar territory.

‘I think they’re bluffing. Do they really want to arrest a woman of color?’ Israel said in a phone interview. ‘They’re just thumping their chests.’

When Israel was asked if she could make an appearance in the House’s chamber on Wednesday before the warrants are potentially put into place, Israel responded, ‘hell no.’  

She added that there is a legal team working on the House Democrats’ case, with ‘punching and counter-punching happening by the hour,’ according to the Washington Post.  

In another on-going saga that can last up to 30 days, Israel said, ‘every day that we don’t have to deal with these far-right policies is a good day.’

It is unusual that quorum has been broken for song even though it has happened in Texas before, but never have Texan lawmakers had to be search and brought to the House or Senate chambers by law enforcement, Israel added.

‘We’ve never been down this road before,’ she said.

State Rep. Mary González, a Democrat who serves District 75 in the Lone Star State, an area that includes parts of El Paso, returned to the House floor on Monday, saying she hoped Republicans do not move forward with attempts to arrest her colleagues.

‘In recent times, the Texas House has had some difficulties,’ she said in an interview with the Washington Post on Tuesday. ‘I’m hoping that we don’t get to a place where we do arrest warrants, because I think that’s another step in changing the culture of the Texas House. 

‘I’m not sure that’s a direction that would be most helpful in this moment in time.’


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