The Texas GOP finally got a bit of payback when the Republican Speaker of the Texas House signed a civil warrant of arrest for a returning member. Texas GOP Speaker Dade Phelan issued a civil arrest warrant for State Representative Philip Cortez as he returned to Austin from his trip to Washington DC.
Civil Arrest Warrant Issued
Cortez went home from his trip to Washington DC, along with fellow Texas Democrats. The main purpose of the trip is to ensure that the Texas Legislature won’t have enough members for a quorum. The special session to approve a bill for voting reform required a quota.
Texas Democrats left in the middle of the night for Washington DC in order to avoid attending the session. They plan to stay in DC until the session expires. However, Cortez decided to go home earlier than scheduled. Upon his return, the Texas GOP speaker ordered his arrest.
In Pursuit of Article II, Section 10
Phelan justified the arrest warrant as the House’s duty to compel absent members of the Texas House of Representatives to attend the session. Article II Section 10 of the Texas State constitution reads: “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.”
Phelan instructed the Sergeant-at-Arms of the House of Representatives of the State of Texas to carry out the civil arrest warrant for Cortez. Once arrested, the Sergeant-at-Arms will transport the offending member before the House of Representatives to attend the session.
Cortez Fled To Washington DC Again
Cortez returned to Austin last week in order to reopen a dialogue with Texas GOP members about House Bill 3. Phelan said that the Democrat returned to the House of his own decision. He wanted to “work on policy and find solutions to bring his colleagues back to Texas,” Phelan said.
However, when the Texas GOP speaker approved Cortez’s request to temporarily leave the House floor, he instead fled the state and returned to Washington DC to join his absentee party mates. The incident has “irrevocably broken my trust and the trust of this chamber,” Phelan said.
Democrats Welcome Back Cortez in DC Despite Returning To Texas Without Telling Anyone
Many of Cortez’s fellow Democrats in DC said that Cortez did not tell them about his decision to go back to Austin. Many found out about it when he arrived in Texas. The Texas Tribune reported that “Other Democrats criticized Cortez’s move, saying the lawmaker did not first consult with them before returning to Austin.”
Still, the Democrats were just happy to have him back in Washington DC. Texas House Democratic Caucus Chair Chris Turner lauded his decision to return to DC. “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,” he said.
Session Still Lack Quorum
The Texas Democrats plan to stay in DC until after August 6, That day will be the last of the special session. Speaking from the capital, Representative Jarvis Johnson, D-Houston, said that Democrats returning to Texas isn’t a concern as long attending members remain under 100. At present, the quorum remains around 90, as Democrats who didn’t join the party to flee to DC are now attending sessions. This presents continued vexation for the Texas GOP, from Governor Greg Abbott to House GOP lawmakers, especially Phelan.
“Many of those that are there simply know how to count,” Johnson said. “The fact that they still need a bunch more doesn’t mean that they are anywhere close to having a quorum. So we’re still strong. There could be some that are there just to simply gather some information, because they can leave anytime they want. The quorum is still broke.”
Second Democrat To Go Home
Cortez is the second Texas Democrat to return to their home state after fleeing to Washington DC. Earlier, Representative Harold Dutton, D-Houston, returned to the capitol Tuesday. He cited family reasons for his return. It turned out he has a sister undergoing chemotherapy.
What do you think about the ongoing quorum problems in the Texas legislature? Do you find the Democrats’ way of dealing with bills they don’t like acceptable behavior?
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