Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan (R) stripped Rep. Joe Moody (D) of his leadership position as speaker pro tem Thursday after the Democrat fled the state to break quorum and prevent the House from passing legislation.
“Pursuant to my authority under House Rule 1 Section 10, I have relieved Representative Joe Moody from his position as Speaker Pro Tempore for the 87th Legislature, effective immediately,” Phelan wrote in a memo without giving a reason for the removal.
Moody fled the state with dozens of his colleagues Monday, taking off for Washington, D.C., aboard private jets in protest of election reforms Texas Republicans sought to pass. The Democrats also hope to lobby for support of the For The People Act, a federal takeover of elections that would strip states of much of their election authority.
Moody responded to Phelan over Twitter, posting: “The most important titles in my life will never change: Dad, Husband, El Pasoan. Nothing political has ever even cracked the top three, so nothing has changed about who I am or what my values are.”
— Cassi Pollock (@cassi_pollock) July 15, 2021
Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) has pledged that the rogue lawmakers will be arrested as soon as they return to Texas and made to sit in Congress until voting reforms and other of Abbott’s priorities are passed. He also vowed to call as many special sessions of Congress as necessary to pass legislation.
“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 Monday. “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.”
On Tuesday, the Texas House voted to have law enforcement return the Democratic lawmakers to the House. The order directs law enforcement to “arrest, if necessary” the lawmakers in order to bring them back. The order is largely powerless, however, to reach the Democratic lawmakers in Washington, and Texas law enforcement will likely have to wait until the lawmakers return to the state before being able to carry out the order.
Texas Democrats planned to take the unprecedented action of fleeing the state for weeks. The lawmakers considered leaving for West Virginia and Arizona to pressure Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) to support the For The People Act. The lawmakers eventually settled on D.C., however, out of fear that GOP governors in West Virginia and Arizona would return them 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.