Monday, June 24, 2024

Texas House votes to arrest Democrats who fled to Washington, D.C.

by BIZ Magazine

Bethany Blankley | The Center Square

As Texas House Democrats took to the steps of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., their Republican colleagues voted Tuesday to have them arrested for their delinquency from an ongoing special legislative session.

The more than 60 Democratic lawmakers fled Austin on Monday to disrupt the ongoing special session called by Gov. Greg Abbott in which voting reform measures were to be decided. Democrats call the measures attempts to suppress voting. Republicans say they are to standardize the state’s elections and help prevent fraud.

State Rep. Will Metcalf, R-Conroe, chair of the House Administration Committee, moved to invoke a “call of the House.” He asked that “the sergeant at arms, or officers appointed by him [search for those] whose unattendance is not excused for the purpose of securing and maintaining their absence under warrant of arrest if necessary.”

The motion passed by a vote of 76-4, with four Democrats who did not go to Washington, D.C., opposing the measure.

Only 80 out of 150 House members were present for Tuesday’s vote – 100, or two-thirds, are needed for a quorum. Denying quorum means the House is unable to hold hearings or advance bills on 11 priority legislative items identified by Abbott for the special session.

After the vote, Rep. Tony Tinderholt, R-Arlington, sought to file a motion to strip absent Democrats of their committee leadership positions if they do not return to Austin by noon Wednesday. But House Speaker Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, said absent Democrats holding committee chair and vice chair positions cannot be removed under current chamber rules.

In a radio interview Tuesday, Abbott said any Democrat who fled the state should lose their committee leadership posts.

In Washington, Democrats were defiant.

“We are not going to buckle to the ‘big lie’ in the state of Texas – the ‘big lie’ that has resulted in anti-democratic legislation throughout the United States,” Democratic state Rep. Rafael Anchia said at the nation’s Capitol, referring to claims of voter fraud during the 2020 presidential election and voting reform measures that have since passed in some Republican-led states. “We said no when the ‘big lie’ came to the Capitol in Texas.”

U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer met with Texas Democrats in Washington Tuesday and Vice President Kamala Harris is expected to meet with them later this week.

While the Democrats argue they oppose bills designed to reform election laws in Texas, ten other legislative items are on the agenda and remain unfinished. They include bail reform, border security, bills preventing social media companies from censoring content, restoring Article X funding, family violence reform, protecting girls sports, banning abortion-inducing drugs, streamlining payments for retired teachers, amending a ban on Critical Race Theory, and a range of appropriations including property tax relief and improving the state’s foster care system.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick told Fox News that seven bills the state Senate passed in the regular session, proposed by Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, are designed to create uniformity of the election system and prevent voter fraud, not suppress voting rights.

“It has nothing to do with voter suppression,” Patrick said. “What you just heard [from House Democrats at the U.S. Capitol] were not only lies, they were damned lies. And this idea that they are fighting for Texas? Give me a break. You don’t run from a fight.”

There are currently over 500 election fraud cases that the Texas Attorney General has brought before the courts, and they are just the beginning, he has said.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the proposed new Texas voting laws are “the worst challenge to our democracy since the Civil War.”

Bettencourt’s bills include removing ineligible voters from the voter rolls by the Department of Public Safety, ensuring that voters are registered at the address where they live and not their P.O. Box, and enforcing existing Election Code law in a uniform manner across the state. Proposed measures include mail ballot protections; requiring uniformity in early voting hours and days for all counties in Texas; requiring transparency for all cities, counties and ISDs; and several others reforms related to rotating polling locations and drive-through voting. Many of these methods were abused in Harris County during the 2020 election, Bettencourt argues.

State Rep. Alex Dominguez, D- Brownsville, was among those who traveled to Washington, D.C. He told The Center Square, that he went “to stop voter suppression efforts in Texas and to implore Congress to act immediately to protect our democracy and voting rights for Texans and Americans across the country.

“We are seeing efforts from Republican-led legislatures across the country to stifle voting rights of minorities primarily,” he added. “These efforts are based on the Big Lie, which has no basis in fact.”

Dominguez said he and his Democratic colleagues were taking a stance for future generations of Americans.

“We have seen the blatant attack on our democracy based on lies, fear mongering, and a thirst for power over all other things,” he said.

When asked to clarify which lies he says are being told about stifling voting rights, his press office did not respond. His office also did not respond to questions as to who paid the $100,000 to charter two private planes to take the Democrats to Washington, D.C., how long he and his colleagues would be staying there, and who was paying for the trip.

His spokesperson told The Center Square that Dominguez will not rely on state funds during his time in Washington, D.C.

The four Democrats who did not go to Washington, D.C., opposed the call of the House measure were Reps. Ryan Guillen (Rio Grande City), Tracy King (Batesville), Eddie Morales Jr. (Eagle Pass) and John Turner (Dallas).

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