Republican Texas Governor Abbott confirmed Monday that the absent Democratic lawmakers who defected from a legislative session in a protest “walk-out” will be arrested upon their return to the state.
During an appearance on The Ingraham Angle on Fox News, the governor slammed the legislators who “fled” the state to deny the Texas GOP quorum, or the minimum number of members required to conduct a session. The Democrats walked out to prevent the advancement of a key elections reform measure, which includes limits on 24-hour and early voting and mass mail-in ballot distributions, and more requirements for absentee ballot identification.
Abbott said that Texas House members can call for the arrest of their Democratic counterparts who ditch the vote, claiming they’re disrupting the legislative process when they have a duty to be represent their constituents in chamber.
“Once they step back into the state they will be arrested and brought back to the Capitol and we will be conducting business,” he said.
However, the arrests must be made in Texas. The Democrats deserted a special session of the legislature, which can last a maximum of 30 days under the state’s constitution, so the lawmakers may remain out of the state for weeks if they plan to uphold the walk-out.
This episode marks the second time the Texas Democrats have orchestrated a walk-out over the elections bill, which they argue is a voter suppression mechanism designed to disenfranchise minorities and underprivileged communities from exercising their right to vote.
But given a Republican-dominated Texas legislature, the opposing party can only stall the majority-backed legislation for so long. Abbott signaled that the Texas GOP is prepared to pull all the legislative avenues to pass the bill despite Democratic obstructionism.
“We have special sessions that last 30 days,” Abbott said. “And the governor calls them, and I will continue calling special session after special session because over time it is going to continue until they step up to vote.”
In lieu of attending session, the Texas Democratic lawmakers flew to Washington, D.C. in private jets to lobby for federal legislation.
Abbott said in a statement that their decision “inflicts harm on the very Texans who elected them to serve.”
“As they fly across the country on cushy private planes, they leave undone issues that can help their districts and our state,” he wrote. “The Democrats must put aside partisan political games and get back to the job they were elected to do.”