In what appears to be a strong message for the absentee Democrats, Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan of Beaumont issued a warrant of arrest for San Antonio State Representative Philip Cortez, who flew back to Washington D.C. to rejoin fellow legislators in protest of the pending GOP-backed election bills.
The warrant, the first-ever signed by Phelan since 58 members of the House left Texas to prevent an imminent passage of House Bill No. 3, was issued over what is believed to be a failure between the Republicans and the Democrats to resolve the impasse, which has literally crippled the legislative body requiring a quorum to be able to get down to business.
However, it was not certain whether the warrant would have an impact amid issues covering jurisdiction outside the state.
Earlier reports had Cortez, who reportedly didn’t bother to consult fellow Texan Democrats protesting in Washington DC, back in Austin last week for a dialogue regarding House Bill No. 3, which delves on voting restrictions.
Few days after he returned to Texas, Cortez issued a statement that hinted at a failed bid to come up with something from which fellow Democrats would be able to fly back home and take part in the special session, which ends on August 6.
Cortez’s statement said that “discussions on improving” the legislation had “not produced progress.” He flew back to Washington on Sunday.
In a separate statement coming from the Office of the House Speaker, Phelan admitted Cortez indeed had “represented to me and the fellow members that he wanted to work on policy and find solutions to bring his colleagues back to Texas.”
“As a condition of being granted permission to temporarily leave the House floor, Rep. Cortez promised his House colleagues that he would return. Instead, he fled the state and has irrevocably broken my trust and the trust of this chamber,” the statement further reads.
As of press time, Cortez has not issued any reaction to the Speaker’s statement.
Looking back, the more or less 80 House members who were physically present in Austin unanimously voted to issue a “call of the House” as a matter of gesture to regain quorum.
The “call of the House” included clauses like sending law enforcement to fetch the protesting Democrats back to Texas and eventually in the plenary. The plan however fizzled out — again, over issues covering jurisdiction outside the state.
In Washington DC, the protesting Texan Democrats stood firm on their earlier statement — that they won’t be back to Austin until after August 6 — for which reason Governor Greg Abbott hinted at the possibility of calling additional special sessions if only to ensure that his priority legislations are passed.