Tuesday marked 29 straight days by which the Texas House of Representatives lacked the quorum necessary to conduct legislative business.
Shortly after attempting to gavel in, State Rep. Will Metcalf (R–Conroe) made a motion to direct the House sergeant-at-arms to send for absent lawmakers “under a warrant of arrest” if necessary. That motion prevailed by a vote of 80-12.
The 12 nay votes were composed of one lone Republican, State Rep. Lyle Larson (San Antonio), and 11 Democrat state representatives: Harold Dutton (Houston), Art Fierro (El Paso), Mary Gonzalez (El Paso), Bobby Guerra (Mission), Abel Herrero (Robstown), Tracy King (D-Uvalde), Oscar Longoria (Mission), Eddie Lucio III (Brownsville), Joe Moody (El Paso), James Talarico (Round Rock), and John Turner (Dallas).
This motion comes one day after the House adopted a motion of a “call of the House” directing the House sergeant-at-arms to lock the doors to the House chamber, thus also requiring lawmakers who wish to leave the chamber to get express permission from House Speaker Dade Phelan.
A Republican in Name Only
The lone Republican nay vote, Larson has long been vocal in his criticism of the ongoing paralysis in the Texas House. He took to Twitter yesterday, criticizing the adopted motion by saying, “Arresting members to come to the house floor. Have we got to the point where we believe our own bull shizz so much that we arrest our own colleagues. Civil discourse took a nasty turn today.”
Republican Party of Texas Chairman Matt Rinaldi blasted the move.
“With his vote to protect fleeing Democrats from arrest and his attack on the governor last week for not imposing COVID restrictions and mask mandates, it appears Rep. Larson has given up even the facade of being a Republican,” said Rinaldi.
Larson is widely considered one of the most liberal Republicans in the Texas House and has even been flirting with running for statewide office under the banner of a new third party. Larson was vocal about his concerns with the Republican Party in the lead-up to the most recent legislative session. In June of last year, he published an editorial entitled “We need to get rid of the two-party system” in the Galveston County Daily News and argued that “the majority of Americans are centrist” and a new independent party in Texas “could balance out the fractious far left and right leanings of the incumbent parties.” Larson was also challenged by a fellow lawmaker: “Put your money where your mouth is, and if you want to run as an independent, run as an independent.” Larson continued to run as a Republican.
He is also one of the few Republicans who vocally supports the expansion of Medicaid in Texas, and he recently requested it be added to a special session, coalescing with Democrats.
Larson was also endorsed by Gov. Greg Abbott last cycle, even after criticizing his own party. Abbott endorsed against him just one election cycle earlier, calling him “Liberal Lyle.”
Late Tuesday evening, arrest warrants were signed for all 52 absent Democrat lawmakers by House Speaker Dade Phelan. In the previous special session, the same motion was made to no avail. Only one civil arrest warrant was issued for State Rep. Philip Cortez (D–San Antonio), who returned to Austin only to leave for Washington, D.C., again several days later after receiving permission from Phelan to do so.