News & Politics

Texas Judge Blocks Arrest of Fleebagger Democrats Wanting to Return Home

Twitter screenshot of Texas Democrats fleeing to D.C.

Update: On Tuesday the Texas Supreme Court voided the lower court’s decision blocking the arrest of Democrats who skip out on the special legislative session.

A Democratic judge in Travis County, Texas, has issued a temporary restraining order that will prevent the arrest of Texas state legislators who fled the state for Washington, D.C., rather than vote on an election integrity bill. The order will be good for 14 days and can be renewed indefinitely.

Governor Greg Abbott and Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan had issued arrest warrants for the fleeing legislators after Abbott had called a special session of the legislature to pass the elections bill and the Democrats failed to show up. The lack of a quorum meant that no legislative business could be concluded.

State Rep. Art Fierro (D) said in a statement, “Our chief goal in going to Washington was to sound the alarm on voting rights nationwide, and now there’s a new federal bill designed to protect voters and voting access that we expect will be filed soon because of our advocacy,” he said in a statement.

Washington Post:

Texas House Democrats broke quorum for the third time over the weekend, as Phelan launched a second special legislative session aimed at approving new voting restrictions, among other agenda items. After Democrats’ exodus last month, Republicans overwhelmingly approved a “call of the House,” an order allowing law enforcement to track down absent members if they came back to Texas. Abbott also committed to arresting the Democrats on their return to the state.

But State District Judge Brad Urrutia said that the arrest order violated the state constitution.

The Austin-based judge agreed that Democrats would suffer “imminent and irreparable harm” if Republicans are not barred from ordering arrests, which they threatened to do if members of the minority party returned to the state. Last month, 57 House Democrats left for Washington to advocate for federal voting rights protections, leaving the chamber without the minimum attendance required to do business and continuing a stalemate that began with a similar walkout in May.

It “clearly appears” that Abbott and Phelan have “erroneously interpreted Texas law and legislative rules to permit the detention, confinement, or other restriction [of state legislators] … in response to a call for quorum,” Urrutia wrote in the order.

The judge is legislating from the bench. The legislature of the state is free to make its own rules about attendance and what to do with members who deliberately refuse to do their constitutional duty.

Renae Eze, Abbott’s spokeswoman, said in a statement, “The ruling by the Travis County judge is contrary to the Texas Constitution and violates the separation of powers between the different branches of government.” The statement continued, “We are confident that this overstep will be overturned. Texas Democrats need to stop the charades and get back to work.”

Meanwhile, the Democrats’ voting rights soap opera continues. It no longer matters what’s in the bill to reform election procedures. What matters is how the meaning can be twisted to serve the Democrats’ political interests. Now that partisan judges have been enlisted as allies, the drama can be drawn out for months.

Without a quorum, the people’s business is put on hold. That includes dealing with a burgeoning public health crisis as the state’s hospitals fill up with COVID patients. Governor Abbott has been forced to ask hospitals in the state to “voluntarily postpone medical procedures for which delay will not result in loss of life or a deterioration in the patient’s condition” in order to free up beds that could be used by COVID patients. There are also education initiatives that need to be addressed and power grid issues that should be passed.

But Texas Democrats believe it’s more important to play silly hide-and-seek games than conduct the people’s business.