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TX House speaker issues arrest warrant for Dem who fled state to block voter bill

Police car lights (Wikimedia/Matty Ring)
July 27, 2021

The Republican Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives signed a civil warrant on Sunday for the arrest of a Democrat state lawmaker who left the state on a private jet bound for Washington, D.C. in an effort to block the passage of voter integrity legislation.

Speaker Dade Phelan issued the warrant for the arrest of state Rep. Philip Cortez of San Antonio, which stated:

To the Sergeant-at-Arms of the House of Representatives of the State of Texas, or any officer appointed by him: you are hereby commanded to take The Honorable Philip Cortez, a Member of the House of Representatives of the State of Texas, who is now absent from the House, wherever said Member may be found in the State, into your custody and safekeeping and bring said Member before the bar of the House instanter, this writ being issued under a duly-adopted order of the House pursuant to Article III, Section 10, Texas Constitution, made in exercise of its lawful powers to compel the attendance of absent members in the manner provided under the House Rules of Procedure. Herein fail not, but make due return hereof to this House.

The Texan News reporter Brad Johnson shared a copy of the civil arrest warrant on Twitter.

According to Article III, Section 10 of the Texas state constitution, two-thirds of each House constitutes a quorum in order to do business, and members can be compelled to attend “under such penalties as each House may provide.”

KVUE reported that Cortez returned to Austin only to leave for Washington, D.C., once again in order to avoid arrest.

“Rep. Cortez returned to the Texas Capitol of his own volition and represented to me and his fellow members that he wanted to work on policy and find solutions to bring his colleagues back to Texas,” Phelan said. “As a condition of being granted permission to temporarily leave the House floor, Rep. Cortez promised his House colleagues that he would return. Instead, he fled the state and has irrevocably broken my trust and the trust of this chamber.”

Texas House Democratic Caucus Chair Chris Turner applauded Cortez’s return to the nation’s capital, saying, “In the Texas House Democratic Caucus, our unity is our strength. We welcome Rep. Phil Cortez, who is a valued member of our Caucus, back to Washington, D.C. with open arms. All 57 Democrats breaking quorum are just as firm in our commitment to seeing this through until the end as we were the day we left. We are united and unrelenting in our commitment to protect the freedom to vote.”

The Democrats plan to remain in Washington, D.C. until the special session has ended after August 6. According to the Texas Tribune, more than 50 House Democrats and 12 staffers that fled the state are spending nearly $10,000 a day on hotels and meals. The lawmakers have been staying at the Washington Plaza Hotel, where the cheapest room runs around $180 per night, its website shows.

The House Democrat caucus’ executive director said the caucus has paid most of the trip’s expenses so far, and lawmakers have started fundraising campaigns to help foot the bill. Earlier this month, Rep. Jared Patterson, R-Frisco, displayed a poster outside the House chamber that said the Democrats were costing taxpayers more than $40,000 per day.