Of the storylines that came out of the Texas Legislature in 2021, perhaps none earned more national media attention than when House Democrats fled the state for Washington, D.C., in order to halt progress on election integrity legislation in the Texas House. 

During the 37 days they were gone, Gov. Greg Abbott claimed the fleeing Democrats would be arrested and forced to return.

That did not happen, however. In fact, one Democrat lawmaker even returned to Austin for a few days before heading back to D.C. 

When a quorum was finally reached 37 days later, the House never voted on or considered any punishments for those who left.

This lack of action was in direct contradiction to calls from the Republican Party of Texas. The State Republican Executive Committee—the governing body of the Republican Party of Texas—unanimously passed a resolution calling for all of the quorum-busting Democrats to be removed from leadership positions in the chamber.

“I want to be clear: I have never seen an issue that so firmly unites Republicans across the political spectrum as this one does,” Texas GOP Chair Matt Rinaldi said during an August press conference, pointing to calls for fleeing Democrats to be removed from leadership by Gov. Greg Abbott, his Republican primary challengers, Texas Young Republicans, and College Republicans.  

During the second special session, State Rep. Cody Vasut (R–Angleton) filed House Resolution 72, which would have ensured that penalties could be applied to those derelict members—including stripping chairmanships, fining the members, and taking away their seniority privileges such as preferred offices and parking spots.

But despite the bill being referred to the House Administration Committee chaired by State Rep. Will Metcalf (R–Conroe), it never received a hearing. 

Similar legislation was also ignored during the third special session. 

Currently, Democrats control a number of key chairmanship positions in the Texas House, including education and business. In the upcoming primary election, Republican voters will get to vote on a ballot proposition regarding whether Democrats should continue to hold leadership positions in the Republican-controlled Legislature. 

Brandon Waltens

Brandon serves as the Managing Editor for Texas Scorecard. After managing successful campaigns for top conservative legislators and serving as a Chief of Staff in the Texas Capitol, Brandon moved outside the dome in order to shine a spotlight on conservative victories and establishment corruption in Austin. @bwaltens