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Texas House Speaker signs civil arrest warrants for absent Democrats

Sebastian Hughes, DCNF

Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan signed the civil arrest warrants for 52 House Democrats who are still absent from the state capital on Tuesday night.

The warrants were signed by the Republican House Speaker after a majority in the chamber voted for the measure, The Dallas Morning News reported. They will be delivered to the sergeant-at-arms Wednesday.

Democrats fled the state in July to deny the Republican majority in the House quorum, so the GOP would be unable to pass an election bill liberals argue unfairly restricts voting rights. Saturday marked the beginning of the second special session Gov. Greg Abbott called in an attempt to pass the bill.

It is “fully within our rights as legislators to break quorum to protect our constituents,” Rep. Chris Turner, who chairs the Texas House Democratic Caucus, said in a statement Tuesday, the Dallas Morning News reported. “Texas House Democrats are committed to fighting with everything we have against Republicans’ attacks on our freedom to vote.”

The state Supreme Court overturned a district judge’s ruling that said the House Democrats could not be arrested for failing to show up to the Capitol on Tuesday, The Texas Tribune reported.

“It is no surprise that Republican Governor Greg Abbott and House Speaker Dade Phelan want to arrest their political opponents,” state Reps. Trey Martinez Fischer, Gina Hinojosa, and Jasmine Crockett said in a joint statement after the ruling, CNN reported. “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 20th,” they added.

The Democrats would not face criminal charges, but would instead be brought to the House chamber so a vote could be held, The Texas Tribune reported.

“The Supreme Court of Texas swiftly rejected this dangerous attempt by Texas Democrats to undermine our Constitution and avoid doing the job they were elected to do,” Renae Eze, an Abbott spokeswoman, told The Texas Tribune. “We look forward to the Supreme Court upholding the rule of law and stopping another stall tactic by the Texas Democrats.”

“Have we got to the point where we believe our own bull shizz so much that we arrest our own colleagues,” Republican Rep. Lyle Larson, who voted against issuing the warrants and has criticized his party’s election bill, tweeted Tuesday. “Civil discourse took a nasty turn today.”

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