After a Texas Democrat state representative returned to Austin from Washington, D.C., where he and other Texas Democrats had flown in order to break the quorum in the House to stop the Texas GOP from passing voting bills, the Republican Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives signed a civil warrant for his arrest.
The Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, Dade Phelan, issued the civil warrant for the arrest of state Rep. Philip Cortez from San Antonio. Phelan wrote:
To the Sergeant-at-Arms of the House of Representatives of the State of Texas, or any officer appointed by him: you are hereby commanded to take The Honorable Philip Cortez, a Member of the House of Representatives of the State of Texas, who is now absent from the House, wherever said Member may be found in the State, into your custody and safekeeping and bring said Member before the bar of the House instanter, this writ being issued under a duly-adopted order of the House pursuant to Article III, Section 10, Texas Constitution, made in exercise of its lawful powers to compel the attendance of absent members in the manner provided under the House Rules of Procedure. Herein fail not, but make due return hereof to this House.
— Brad Johnson (@bradj_TX) July 26, 2021
Article III, Section 10 of the Texas state constitution states, “QUORUM; ADJOURNMENTS FROM DAY TO DAY; COMPELLING ATTENDANCE. Two-thirds of each House shall constitute a quorum to do business, but a smaller number may adjourn from day to day, and compel the attendance of absent members, in such manner and under such penalties as each House may provide.”
Cortez returned to Washington, D.C., on Sunday; he “returned to Austin from Washington in what he said was an attempt to engage in ‘good faith dialogue’ about House Bill 3, the election legislation,” The Texas Tribune reported, adding, “Other Democrats criticized Cortez’s move, saying the lawmaker did not first consult with them before returning to Austin.”
“Rep. Cortez returned to the Texas Capitol of his own volition and represented to me and his fellow members that he wanted to work on policy and find solutions to bring his colleagues back to Texas,” Phelan said, as KVUE reported. “As a condition of being granted permission to temporarily leave the House floor, Rep. Cortez promised his House colleagues that he would return. Instead, he fled the state and has irrevocably broken my trust and the trust of this chamber.”
Meanwhile, after Cortez returned to Washington, D.C., Texas House Democratic Caucus Chair Chris Turner praised him, saying, “In the Texas House Democratic Caucus, our unity is our strength. We welcome Rep. Phil Cortez, who is a valued member of our Caucus, back to Washington, D.C. with open arms. All 57 Democrats breaking quorum are just as firm in our commitment to seeing this through until the end as we were the day we left. We are united and unrelenting in our commitment to protect the freedom to vote.”
The Texas Democrats intend to stay away from Texas until after August 6, the last day of the special session.