The procedural move carries little apparent weight since the Democrats who fled the state to break quorum are beyond the jurisdiction of Texas law enforcement.
The Texas House voted Tuesday to send law enforcement to track down Democrats who left the state a day earlier in protest of Republicans’ priority elections legislation “under warrant of arrest if necessary.”
More than 50 House Democrats left Monday for Washington, D.C., to deny the chamber a quorum — the minimum number of lawmakers needed to conduct business — as it takes up voting restrictions and other GOP priorities in special session.
The impact of the House move is unclear since Texas law enforcement lacks jurisdiction in the nation’s capital.
Meeting shortly after 10 a.m., the House quickly established that it lacked the two-thirds quorum required to do business, with only 80 of 150 members participating in a test vote.
Then Rep. Will Metcalf, R-Conroe, chair of the House Administration Committee, moved to issue what is known as a “call of the House” to try to regain quorum. That motion passed 76-4. Metcalf offered another motion, asking that “the sergeant at arms, or officers appointed by him, send for all absentees … under warrant of arrest if necessary.” That motion also passed 76-4.
Metcalf’s motions were opposed by four Democrats who were present on the House floor Tuesday morning: Reps. Ryan Guillen of Rio Grande City, Tracy King of Batesville, Eddie Morales Jr. of Eagle Pass and John Turner of Dallas.
After Metcalf’s motions passed, Rep. Tony Tinderholt, R-Arlington, sought to move to strip absent Democrats of their committee leadership posts if they do not return by noon Wednesday. The motion did not immediately get a vote, and in a subsequent exchange with Rep. Morgan Meyer, R-Dallas, House Speaker Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, said committee chairs and vice chairs cannot be removed from their positions under the current chamber rules.
Earlier Tuesday morning, Gov. Greg Abbott said in a radio interview that any Democrats who fled the state should lose their committee leadership posts.
Photo: House Republicans crowded around the speaker’s desk Tuesday to discuss a point of order attempting to strip absent members of their committee appointments. Credit: Jordan Vonderhaar for the Texas Tribune