Tuesday marked 36 days that the Texas House of Representatives has gone without a quorum, or the attendance necessary to conduct legislative business.
Already one-third of the way through the second called special legislative session, the House has remained paralyzed.
On Monday, in response to the continued lack of quorum, the Texas House Republican Caucus held a press conference where they attempted to reiterate that because many of their Democrat colleagues are absent, they can not consider issues like a so-called 13th check for beneficiaries of the Teachers Retirement System of Texas, protections for children in the Texas foster care system, bail reform, and funding for virtual education.
Notably, again not mentioned was election integrity legislation, which prompted the quorum breaks to begin with, or lasting property tax relief.
Arrests of Absent Democrat Lawmakers
The caucus chairman, State Rep. Jim Murphy (Houston) took questions from reporters.
When asked about the likelihood of arrests being a real possibility for absent Democrat lawmakers, Murphy replied, “I don’t know that they’re gonna go to that level, at this point. It’s more like a jury summons; you know, a paper that is delivered. And that will be another conversation down the line.”
House Speaker Dade Phelan issued arrest warrants for absent Democrat lawmakers last week on Tuesday (Day 29 without a quorum). However, it was not until Thursday (Day 31 without a quorum) that law enforcement was reportedly deputized to act on those warrants.
Thus far, no absent lawmaker has been arrested and brought back to the Capitol.
As the press conference went on, a reporter asked, “Is there anything that you would say, that we could tell them as part of the question that you would compromise on? Maybe something you would drop from the agenda? I didn’t hear you say anything today about transgender children or the elections bill, for example.”
Murphy replied, “So, I would say on every matter—and I would ask that their own experience be their guide—they have seen this House compromise on what’s in a bill and what bills move forward, and that’s absolutely a possibility, once they’re here. They need to get here to make that happen, but it’s right on our doorstep.”
The Senate has already passed a bill relating to transgender children participating in youth sports, specifically requiring that students play in a sport associated with their biological sex at birth, during the ongoing special session. They passed the same bill in both the regular legislative session and the first called special session. It is an issue currently on Gov. Greg Abbott’s special session agenda.
Related is the current Texas GOP legislative priority of protecting children from gender modification. Lawmakers have been facing increasing pressure to consider this prohibition ever since its legislative prospects were cut short multiple times by the House during the regular session. Abbott did not include it on his special session agenda, but he did request that a state agency opine on whether they consider genital mutilation child abuse. In response, activists and lawmakers are requesting that it be a topic for consideration.
What Does it all Mean?
Thus far, House Republican leadership has not been successful in compelling absent Democrat lawmakers to return to work. In fact, they have generally been reluctant to do much of anything to compel the return of their absent colleagues.
All of the absent lawmakers still retain their chairmanships, vice chairmanships, committee membership, and seniority privileges.
Though their efforts were seemingly unsuccessful in Washington, D.C., many of those same lawmakers have returned home, just not to the Capitol.
With the ongoing session at a standstill and the contentious issue of the decennial redistricting process right around the corner, many Texans are wondering whether compromise, inevitably in Democrat lawmakers’ favor, is the endgame for lawmakers seeking to end the paralysis.