Texas Supreme Court sides with GOP, allowing arrest of absent House Democrats

Texas Politics
Senfronia Thompson, Jeff Merkley

Texas state Rep. Senfronia Thompson, dean of the Texas House of Representatives, is joined by Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., left center, and other Texas Democrats, as they continue their protest of restrictive voting laws, at the Capitol in Washington, Friday, Aug. 6, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

AUSTIN (Nexstar) — On Tuesday, the Supreme Court of Texas sided with Republican leadership in Texas, allowing for the arrest of absent House members going forward.

The opinion orders district courts to rescind their temporary restraining orders given to Texas House Democratic members who have broken quorum since July. 

“The legal question before this Court concerns only whether the Texas Constitution gives the House of Representatives the authority to physically compel the attendance of absent members. We conclude that it does, and we therefore direct the district court to withdraw the TRO,” the opinion, given by Justice Jimmy Blacklock, reads.

It comes a week after Speaker of the House Dade Phelan signed arrest warrants for 52 House Democrats still absent from the second special session of 2021. 

The Texas Sergeant-at-Arms has been delivering civil arrest warrants to House Democrats’ offices and some of their homes in attempt to achieve the quorum lawmakers need to advance legislation, but to date the House has still not had a quorum. 

When the first special session started in July, House Democrats fled the state to Washington D.C. to break quorum, in an attempt to stop a Republican-backed voting bill from passing. 

Democrats say the legislation will make voting more difficult for minorities and Texans with disabilities, but Republicans say it will make elections more secure. 

Last Thursday, the Senate passed the elections bill despite a Democratic senator’s 15 hour filibuster in a symbolic attempt at blocking its passage.

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