Just a few days after the first called special legislative session in the Texas Capitol began, Democrat lawmakers fled Austin in response to election integrity bills passing their respective committees over the weekend.
After reports began to spread throughout the day that Democrats were planning such a move, a flight with dozens of Democrat lawmakers left the Austin Airport for Washington D.C. on Monday afternoon, with no resistance.
In the waning days of the 87th regular legislative session, House Democrats—enabled by House Republican leadership—“busted quorum” to prevent the final consideration of the conference committee report for the omnibus election integrity bill.
In order for the House to conduct business, a quorum of two-thirds of the chamber’s members (100 out of 150) is required to be present. Democrats currently hold 67 of the chamber’s seats.
House rules allow for a “call of the House” to arrest lawmakers who try to break quorum. However, the House is not scheduled to meet until Tuesday, when Democrats plan to have already left the state.
The House Democrats Caucus confirmed the quorum break on Monday afternoon, saying they were “united” in refusing to “let the Republican-led legislature force through dangerous legislation that would trample on Texans’ freedom to vote” and that they were “taking the fight to our nation’s Capitol.”
On the first day of the special session, State Rep. Tony Tinderholt (R–Arlington) offered a resolution that would punish lawmakers who shirked their responsibilities by stripping them of committee chairmanships, committee memberships, and seniority privileges. Thus far, that resolution has not been considered by the overall House.
Tinderholt says he will push to have his resolution passed when they return and make it retroactive.
“If they abdicate their oath of office, as well as their duty to taxpayers, I think they need to be held accountable,” Tinderholt told Texas Scorecard. “Both parties, now or in the future. The party affiliation doesn’t matter.”
“We swore an oath. We’re getting paid by the taxpayers. … Our place of duty is at that Capitol,” he added.
In May 2003, more than 50 House Democrats fled the state to Oklahoma in an attempt to block redistricting legislation making its way through the Texas House. After eventually passing the House, Senate Democrats fled to New Mexico. One Democrat state senator, John Whitmire (Houston), returned to establish a quorum, allowing the bill to eventually pass in October of that same year.
Story updated 7/12 at 4:35 pm.