The Republican Party of Texas is calling for action after Democrats once again nearly derailed proceedings in the Texas House of Representatives.
As the House attempted to convene Monday, they once again narrowly achieved a quorum, or the attendance necessary to conduct legislative business, but only after waiting for over 90 minutes beyond the scheduled start time.
Last week, after 37 days of paralysis, the Texas House of Representatives finally achieved a quorum, convened quickly, and began referring bills to various House committees related to Gov. Greg Abbott’s special session agenda before adjourning until late Monday afternoon.
Five days into the first-called special session (July 13), when it was official that a majority of House Democrat lawmakers had busted quorum, remaining House lawmakers authorized the arrest of those absent, yet no arrest warrants were signed immediately thereafter by Republican leadership and no arrests were made for the entirety of the first special session.
As the second called special legislative session got underway (August 7), some Democrat lawmakers had returned, but the House still lacked a quorum to conduct business. After nearly a week of back and forth in courts, Phelan signed 52 arrest warrants for absent lawmakers. None were ever arrested, even though the Texas Supreme Court had also issued a ruling emphasizing that the House did in fact have the constitutional authority to compel the attendance of absent lawmakers by arrest.
Several House Democrats Release Statement Cautioning “A Quorum is Not Perpetual”
Earlier Monday, 32 House Democrat lawmakers released a joint statement,
“Some of our Democratic colleagues may be returning to the House floor intermittently to object and preserve a record on the voter intimidation and suppression bill, as well as other pieces of legislation which are harmful to vulnerable Texas families. However, we and our allies and advocates recognize that any Member, at any time, has the right to break quorum should they deem it necessary.”
Those lawmakers who released the statement include State Reps. Alma Allen (Houston), Michelle Beckley (Carroltton), Diego Bernal (San Antonio), Jasmine Crockett (Dallas), Liz Campos (San Antonio), Nicole Collier (Ft. Worth), Sheryl Cole (Austin), Joe Deshotel (Beaumont), Trey Martinez-Fischer (San Antonio), Jessica Gonzalez (Dallas), Vikki Goodwin (Austin), Barbara Gervin-Hawkins (San Antonio), Gina Hinojosa (Austin), Celia Israel (Austin), Jarvis Johnson (Houston), Ray Lopez (San Antonio), Terry Meza (Irving), Armando Martinez (Weslaco), Ina Minjarez (San Antonio), Sergio Munoz Jr. (Mission), Christina Morales (Houston), Penny Morales Shaw (Houston), Claudia Ordaz-Perez (El Paso), Mary Ann Perez (Houston), Ana-Maria Ramos (Richardson), Richard Raymond (Laredo), Ron Reynolds (Missouri City), Eddie Rodriguez (Austin), Ramon Romero Jr. (Ft. Worth), Carl Sherman Sr. (DeSoto), Shawn Thierry (Houston), and Hubert Vo (Houston).
Republican Party of Texas Calls for Consequences
Before the House convened Monday, the Republican Party of Texas indicated support for three measures as a response to ensuring this does not happen again:
- 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 a quorum is not maintained.
“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 and take action to maintain a quorum in the future,” said Matt Rinaldi, Chairman of the Republican Party of Texas before the House gaveled in Monday.
The House is composed of 82 Republican and 66 Democrat lawmakers. Though the House returned to a quorum, nothing was immediately done to compel the remaining absent lawmakers to return or to prevent the lawmakers who did return from leaving again.
Currently, of the 34 standing House committees, 13 are Democrat members. Several of them remain absent.