The Texas Supreme Court has temporarily halted a judge’s order preventing Texas Governor Greg Abbott from arresting a number of Democrat state legislators who fled to Washington, D.C., last month in order to deny quorum on a handful of bills.
The group of Democrats left Texas on a chartered flight to Washington, D.C., in July, in order to keep the Texas House from voting on measures designed to preserve voter integrity, a bill that would prevent biological males from competing in women’s athletics, and immigration restrictions. In D.C., the Texas Democrats lobbied for the passage of the For the People “voter rights” act and ignited a small COVID-19 outbreak.
After several weeks away from Texas — and around $1.5 million in expenses later — some of the Democrats returned, leaving around two dozen of their number in the nation’s capital.
Gov. Greg Abbott had announced, when the legislators left Texas, that they would be arrested if they showed up to vote, but on Monday, a judge signed an order temporarily blocking the governor from executing his plan.
“The order, signed by Travis County State District Judge Brad Urrutia, keeps Republican Gov. Greg Abbott and Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan from ‘issuing any warrant or other instrument’ and ‘detaining, confining, or otherwise restricting a Texas House Democrat’s movement without his or her consent,’” according to CNN. The order also restricts law enforcement officers from arresting the “quorum-busting” Dems.
The Texas Supreme Court overturned that measure on Tuesday, “temporarily block[ing] a state district judge’s temporary restraining order that had prevented the arrest of Texas House Democrats, who left the state last month in an attempt to stop the passage of restrictive voting bills,” CNN said in a separate report. “The ruling means that many of the Democratic lawmakers who returned to Texas but continue to break quorum during the second session could now be at risk for arrest if the House votes to compel their attendance.”
The Texas House has yet to reach a quorum, preventing the state’s legislators from voting to compel attendance at a special session, saving the Texas Democrats from facing law enforcement, at least for now.
Abbott’s office applauded the Tuesday ruling. In a statement, a spokesperson for the governor noted that the Supreme Court “swiftly rejected this dangerous attempt by Texas Democrats to undermine our Constitution and avoid doing the job they were elected to do.”
“We look forward to the Supreme Court upholding the rule of law and stopping another stall tactic by the Texas Democrats,” the spokesperson added.
The Hill noted Tuesday that “another special session is currently underway” in the Texas House “to again try to pass the legislation.” That session began Saturday but has not yet reached quorum. On Monday night, the House voted to institute a “call to the House,” which means that legislators cannot leave the session except by express written permission from the Speaker.