Texas state House members voted 76-4 Tuesday to send law enforcement to track down and return dozens of Democratic lawmakers who fled the state to break quorum and block legislation on election reforms.
The state House cannot vote on legislation without a two-thirds majority of its 150-member body present. At least 51 Democratic House members fled the state on Monday, taking chartered flights to Washington, D.C., in protest of the Texas election reform efforts and in support of the For The People Act, a Democrat-backed proposal for the federal government to take over much of the election process.
Texas House members voted Tuesday for law enforcement to bring back “under warrant of arrest, if necessary,” the absent House members, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) called a special session of the legislature last week the focus on a slew of legislation that Democrats in the House derailed earlier this year with a similar act, breaking quorum and preventing the House from proceeding. The election reform legislation is part of that bundle of bills that was tabled.
Abbott pledged Monday that the runaway House members would be arrested as soon as they returned to Texas.
“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 during an appearance 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.”
Abbott also accused the Democrats of misrepresenting the election legislation, which includes reforms such as mandatory voter identification, in order to justify their trip to Washington, D.C.
“The thesis that they are operating under is completely false, because what the Texas law does, doesn’t hinder anybody’s ability to vote,” he said. “In fact, interestingly, what Texas is seeking to do is to add additional hours to vote. Texas has 12 days of early voting and the hours of which will be expanded. And we will ensure that hours are expanded on Election Day also. So their entire thesis is completely wrong.”
The state lawmakers have planned to take such unprecedented action for weeks. The lawmakers had considered fleeing to West Virginia and Arizona to pressure Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) to support the For The People Act. The Democrats eventually decided against fleeing to either state out of fear that GOP governors would help extradite them back to Texas.
“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,” state Democratic leaders said in a joint statement Monday as lawmakers boarded chartered planes to D.C.