Texas House Speaker Signs 52 Arrest Warrants for Dems

Following state Supreme Court ruling overturning restraining order on arrests, 80-12 vote in House
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 11, 2021 6:42 AM CDT
Texas House Speaker Signs 52 Arrest Warrants for Dems
Texas Speaker of the House Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, strikes his gavel as he opens the special session called by Gov. Greg Abbott on July 8, 2021, in Austin, Texas.   (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

On Tuesday, the Texas Supreme Court overturned a district court's restraining order that blocked the arrest of Democrats in the state's House of Representatives who fled Texas last month for DC to break quorum and keep the chamber from voting on restrictive voting bills. The all-Republican high court was responding to a petition brought by GOP Gov. Greg Abbott and Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan, also a Republican, who wanted to block the district court's earlier ruling that Abbott and Phelan didn't have the authority to order such arrests. The GOP-led House didn't waste any time after the Supreme Court's decision: It voted 80-12 just hours later to direct the state's sergeant-at-arms to mandate attendance "under warrant of arrest if necessary," per the New York Times. Just one Republican voted against the motion. Then, Phelan signed 52 civil arrest warrants, aimed at the missing Democrats and set to be delivered Wednesday morning to the House sergeant-at-arms.

The Washington Post notes the lawmakers with warrants issued in their names wouldn't be jailed, but instead could be brought by law enforcement to the state Capitol in Austin. The moves weren't a total shock to the House Dems. "It is no surprise that [Abbott] and [Phelan] want to arrest their political opponents," notes a joint statement by Reps. Trey Martinez Fischer, Gina Hinojosa, and Jasmine Crockett, issued after the state Supreme Court's ruling, per CNN. "Thankfully, this is still the United States of America. We will defend the freedom to vote, and we look forward to our temporary injunction hearing on August 20." CNN notes that more than two dozen Democrats plan on staying in DC through August, lobbying Congress to pass federal laws that would override state laws on voting rights. Other Dems have left the nation's capital but haven't yet returned to the Texas House to attend the second special session called by Abbott. (More Texas stories.)

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