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Texas House Sergeant-at-Arms delivers civil arrest warrants for absent Democrats

Texas Politics

AUSTIN (Nexstar) — On Wednesday, the Texas House Sergeant-at-Arms walked the state Capitol to serve the offices of the 52 absent House Democrats who are still preventing a quorum, after Speaker Dade Phelan officially signed the warrants Tuesday night.

“Representative Thompson has not voluntarily appeared at the House chamber, and the speaker has signed a warrant on a representative’s civil arrest,” Michael Black, the House Sergeant-at-Arms, said as he delivered the civil warrant to a staffer in State Rep. Senfronia Thompson’s office.

Rep. Ron Reynolds (D-Missouri City), one of the Democrats still in D.C., said seeing the video of that delivery made the weight of the warrants settle in.

“Actually seeing the video while I’m here in Washington — it put it in perspective,” Reynolds explained.

Just across the hall, the Texas Senate is debating the very bill Reynolds and other Democrats fled to fight.

“This, of course, is the bill about accessibility and security of our elections,” bill author State Sen. Bryan Hughes (R-Mineola) said as he laid out the legislation Wednesday.

He and other Republicans call it election integrity, while Democrats call it voter suppression. Democrats said the delivery of these warrants only adds to the tension.

Reynolds said his quorum-breaking colleagues who are still in Texas are worried.

“We’re treated like fugitives on the run. So basically, they have to be conspicuous. They have to hide… they’re not safe at their home, or they can’t go by their district office,” he said.

But Republicans, like Rep. Jim Murphy of Houston, point to the rules.

“It’s not as if anyone’s going to jail or truly, truly held against their will. But we want to bring people here to do their job,” Murphy said, “These rules that are being followed are the same rules that we all adopted.”

It’s unclear when law enforcement could bring these representatives back to the Capitol, especially with looming court battles.

“Representative Gene Wu sought relief in the Harris County court, and a judge said that he can’t be placed under arrest. And in fact, I’m a plaintiff with about 50-plus of us seeking the same relief that Gene Wu did,” Reynolds explained, but said he’s expecting the governor and speaker to fight that legislation.

The Sergeant-at-Arms will now report the list of absent members to the speaker’s office, who then has the power to enlist state law enforcement officials to physically bring the representatives in the state back to the Capitol.

There’s no official timeline of when that could happen.

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