After Texas House Democrats caused a 37-day legislative delay and wasted over $1.6 million in taxpayer money, a quorum is now established in the Texas House. The Republican Party of Texas is excited the legislature will move forward with addressing election integrity and other GOP priorities. However, the decision by Democrats to end this disgraceful episode should not result in moving forward as if it never happened. Instead, the House should move swiftly to implement repercussions for Democrats who fled and implement measures to prevent a similar event in the future.
Matt Rinaldi, Chairman of the Texas Republican Party said “Democrats have played this childish political charade for far too long. Now that House Republicans have the power of a quorum, they should vote immediately to remove Democrat Committee Chairs who broke quorum and take action to maintain a quorum in the future.”
The Republican Party of Texas supports the following measures:
- Removing quorum breaking Democrats as Committee Chairs.
- Amend the rules to automatically revoke committee chairmanships of any member with 15 or more unexcused absences.
- Enforce a call of the House and arrest absent members if quorum is not maintained.
Democrats should not be rewarded for bad behavior by being allowed to lead key committees in a special session they tried to prevent. Furthermore, without the threat of arrest or other penalties, there is no cost to Democrats for breaking quorum. If members can be in Texas and simply not come to the Capitol, quorum breaks can continue indefinitely with minimal inconvenience. That needs to change.
Since the first Special Session was called on July 8th, Democrats have made a mockery of our legislative process. They instantly fled the state, seeking refuge in the arms of US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Vice President Kamala Harris. On July 12th, Gov. Abbott told Texans “As soon as they come back in the state of Texas, they will be arrested,” The following day, the House authorized the arrest of absent members. However, no arrest warrants were signed at that time. On July 15th, Democrat Joe Moody was stripped of his leadership position as Speaker Pro Tempore, a move the Republican Party of Texas supported. A week later, Rep. Philip Cortez abandoned his colleagues in DC and returned to Austin. He was not arrested and was allowed to return to Washington DC a few days later. The first Special Session ended on August 6th with no arrests, no punishments other than for Rep. Moody, and no bills passed out of the Texas House.
On August 7th, Governor Abbott called a second Special Session beginning immediately after the first ended. To the chagrin of their colleagues, some Democrats returned to the Capitol, but not enough for a quorum. On August 9th, a State District Judge issued a temporary restraining order blocking law enforcement from arresting absent House members. That order was temporarily blocked by the Texas Supreme Court and the House moved once again to authorize the arrest of missing members. This time, Speaker Phelan signed 52 arrest warrants. On August 13th, it was reported the House Sergeant at Arms had been going to absent members' homes seeking their attendance. But no arrests were made. On August 17th, the Texas Supreme Court issued a ruling stating the House has the Constitutional authority to compel the attendance of its members by arrest.
This is not the time to bargain with Democrats or reward them for bad behavior. It is time to pass a strong election integrity bill and add additional GOP priorities to the call, like a ban on child gender modification and allowing parents of children in public schools requiring masks to take funding for their child to the school of their choice. The Texas Constitution provides the legislature wide latitude to secure and maintain a quorum. The Republican Party of Texas encourages the legislature to use that power instead of ceding ground on important GOP priorities.