WASHINGTON, D.C. (KXAN) — The Texas House has officially called for law enforcement to detain the Texas Democrats who left the state for Washington, D.C. on Monday to block the GOP’s elections overhaul bills.
The House was able to make the call after failing to meet quorum, or the minimum number of members present to start conducting business. In Texas, the House must have at least two-thirds of its members present — 100 members — to start. On Monday, the House only had 80 members present, the Texas Tribune reports.
While state law enforcement has no jurisdiction in Washington, D.C., the call for arrest merely means Democrats would be forced, upon their arrival, to return to the Texas Capitol for business. Lawmakers would not go to jail.
Democratic lawmakers planned the move to stop passage of the controversial voting bills after Gov. Greg Abbott set the legislation as one of 11 priority items for the special legislative session. Abbott and other state Republicans have focused on “election integrity” bills since the November 2020 Election, although there’s no evidence any widespread voter fraud occurred. Democrats say these bills only aim to stop Democratic voters — particularly voters of color — from voting.
In May, Democrats walked out of the Texas Capitol to block a sweeping bill that included bans on 24-hour polling places and provisions to empower partisan poll watchers. Over the weekend, hundreds of Texans, including Texas Democratic superstar Beto O’Rourke, lined up to testify against the bills. Some even waited 17 hours to do it.
Governor Greg Abbott and other top state Republicans slammed Democrats for the historic gesture.
On Monday afternoon, Abbott said: “Texas Democrats’ decision to break a quorum of the Texas Legislature and abandon the Texas State Capitol inflicts harm on the very Texans who elected them to serve. As they fly across the country on cushy private planes, they leave undone issues that can help their districts and our state.”
But Texas Democrats assure they are blocking the bill the only way they can right now: to protect their constituents and the voting rights of all Texans.
State Rep. James Talarico said Monday: “We’re prepared to stay out of Texas for the rest of the session. This decision wasn’t easy. Many of my colleagues left kids, elderly parents, & sick loved ones. Many are risking their day jobs & their seats in the House. But we won’t sit by & watch democracy wither on the vine.“
Texas House Republicans held a press conference on Tuesday afternoon at the state Capitol, where they urged Democrats to return in order to pass several other bills.
While Democrats still lack the numbers to stop the bills from passing once they do return, many say they hope this last stand will ring the alarm loud enough to deliver a death blow to the legislation.