In what has been a recurring theme for the Texas House under the leadership of Speaker Dade Phelan, members of the chamber refused to show up for business again on Saturday. This marks the fourth time in two weeks a quorum was not present to conduct business.
But unlike previous years when the Democrats were breaking quorum to thwart policy work, the work stoppage has been caused by members of both parties.
For example, establishment Republican Ellen Troxclair is a former member of the Austin City Council and lives within a few miles of the Capitol. She was among those who have been absent from proceedings.
On Friday, 99 members recorded being present for business—but 100 are needed constitutionally. Seventeen of the absentee legislators were Republicans.
When Phelan tried to start business on Saturday morning, only a handful of lawmakers were present. Rather than call the roll, Phelan merely announced that the House would try again to meet at 6 p.m. on Monday.
“This is what’s being told to the members that it’s not important to be here today,” said Schatzline, repeating what Phelan was telling several dozen lawmakers on Friday. “We’re setting a dangerous precedent by breaking quorum as Republicans.”
As Tinderholt noted, members are paid $290 per day during the special session whether they are present or not.
Privately, other lawmakers say there are numerous reasons their colleagues are not showing up but all point back to the leadership of Phelan. Some are actually seeking to quietly thwart Gov. Greg Abbott’s special session agenda and know Phelan will not punish them. Others, though, have said Phelan’s practice of slow-moving legislation has made meetings—like those on Friday and Saturday—pointless because no legislative activity was scheduled.
The Senate has already passed the entire agenda for the fourth special session, while no legislation has moved to the House floor.
“My desk mate said he wasn’t bothering to show up until there was something on the agenda to do,” one lawmaker said on Saturday morning. “He wants to pass the bills but doesn’t feel like making the drive to Austin when all he’s doing is registering his presence.”
The fourth special session is slated to end Dec. 6.
This article was updated to include comments from Reps. Toth, Tinderholt, Harrison, Schatzline.