TEXAS STATE CAPITOL — The House of Representatives has moved to send a fleet of law enforcers to Washington DC to fetch at least 50 Democrats who left a day before the supposed GOP priority election legislation to prevent the chamber from breaching the required number of legislators for a quorum.
In a resolution, the House unanimously voted in favour of a proposal to use the state enforcers to regain quorum so the chamber may finally be able to conduct legislative businesses, including that of the proposed voting restrictions.
The House is particularly eager to start deliberating on House Bill 3 and Senate Bill 1, providing amendments to Texas’ voting system. Among the salient provisions include the ban on drive-thru and 24-hour voting options and further restrictions on the state’s voting-by-mail rules.
However, Republican Representative Jim Murphy in a news conference admitted that state enforcers might not be able to force the Democrats to return.
“We want them to come back — that’s our message,” Murphy said.
The chamber on Tuesday failed to come up with the needed number of legislators to form a quorum to legitimize the legislative procedure that would see lawmakers cast their vote on the proposed GOP priority bills. As of Wednesday, only 80 legislators showed up, which is 20 legislators short for them to have a quorum.
With just 80 legislators present, the House moved to decide on House Administration Committee chairman Representative Will Metcalf’s “Call of the House” to try to regain quorum. Under the rules of the chamber, a “Call of the House” provides that entry and exit points should be padlocked to prevent members from leaving the hall unless one could present written permission duly signed by the House Speaker.
Voting 76-4. Metcalf filed another motion which effectively made the absentee Democrats as fugitives by asking “the sergeant at arms, or officers appointed by him, send for all absentees — under warrant of arrest if necessary.”
His proposal was also adopted and approved, again via 76-4 votes.
Four legislators who rejected Metcalf’s motions were Reps. Ryan Guillen of Rio Grande City, Tracy King of Batesville, Eddie Morales Jr. of Eagle Pass and John Turner of Dallas.
Soon after, Rep. Tony Tinderholt, R-Arlington, also asked the chamber to strip absentee Democrats of their committee chairmanship and vice chairmanship unless they get to return before noon on Wednesday. The move however was opposed by Rep. Morgan Meyer, R-Dallas, who cited existing House rules.
Upon being informed of these developments, House Democrats in a news conference in Washington DC said that they wouldn’t be returning to Texas, at least until the end of the special session — unless Governor Gregg Abbott reverses his veto of funding the legislative branch.