It’s been one year since Texas House Democrats infamously boarded a private jet with a case of beer and left for Washington, D.C., breaking quorum and bringing the Legislature to a halt in order to freeze progress on election integrity legislation in the Texas House.
Despite the outrage expressed by Republican lawmakers at the time, there were ultimately no consequences imposed on them by House Speaker Dade Phelan or the rest of House leadership.
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 at a press conference during their absence pointing to calls for 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 a third special session.
Currently, Democrats control a number of key chairmanship positions in the Texas House, including education and business.
Delegates at the Republican Party of Texas’ recent convention, however, elected to make banning Democrat chairs a legislative priority for the upcoming session. Speaker Phelan, meanwhile, has defended the practice as a tradition in the chamber.
Following the quorum bust last year, Phelan was pressured into removing liberal Democrat State Rep. Joe Moody (El Paso) from his post as speaker pro tempore, which had effectively made him Phelan’s “No. 2” assistant in the House.
Phelan has kept the position vacant, however, with some capitol observers noting Moody is just as tied to leadership as before.