Their pictures are neither on milk cartons nor wanted posters, but there is a hunt underway for a missing herd of Democratic Texas lawmakers.
On Thursday, law enforcement authorities across the state were granted approval to track down Democrats who have come back home after dashing off to Washington, D.C., in July to avoid having to vote on an election integrity bill proposed by Republicans, according to the Washington Examiner.
Earlier this week, Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan signed civil arrest warrants designed to authorize the detention of 52 Democrats who fled the state.
That brought about the predictable court battle, in which Republicans trying to enforce a quorum in the Texas House won a victory when the Texas Supreme Court overruled orders from Harris County judges that would have blocked the arrests.
After gaining temporary protection against the warrant, Democratic state Rep. Gene Wu fought being forced to enter the chamber to do the job he was elected to do.
“Nobody can detain or drag us back to the House floor against our will,” Wu said. “We will not be willing participants in the silencing of our communities.”
The arrests are not so much designed to toss Democrats behind bars as they are to land them behind their desks in the legislative chambers.
Law enforcement was tapped “to assist in the House’s efforts to compel a quorum,” Phelan spokesperson Enrique Marquez said, according to the Texas Tribune.
The warrants require the sergeant-at-arms to find the members of the state House named and “bring said member before the bar of the House” to take part in a special session of the Legislature, according to the Examiner.
Rep. Jim Murphy, the chairman of the House Republican Caucus, said he doesn’t expect Democrats to be what he termed “cuffed and stuffed,” according to The Washington Post.
“What you’re seeing, at least on the part of the Republican leadership is a sense of desperation,” he said.
“If you’re not going to come back to help the teachers or the foster kids, and you’re not going to come back to help people with COVID, you’re not going to come back to help your staff get paid — what does it take to get you to fulfill your oath of office?”
He said the arrest tactic was a sad necessity.
“I don’t like it particularly, and I don’t want to see anybody arrested, but I would’ve thought they would’ve come to their senses and come to do their duty by now,” Murphy said.
According to Fox News, local reports have said Texas House Sergeant-at-Arms Michael Black to going house to house to find Democrats, with about half of those who fled in July having returned to the state, even though many do not wish to take their seats.
Although Democrats have claimed the bill will make it harder to vote in Texas, its supporters say just the opposite is true.
“Those of us who have read the bill know what’s in it: simple, common sense reforms and expanding early voting hours across the state,” said Republican state Sen. Bryan Hughes, adding that the bill makes it “easy to vote [and] hard to cheat.”
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