The Texas state Senate passed a Republican-backed voting integrity measure Thursday after a Texas Democrat ended her 15-hour filibuster.
Even though state Sen. Carol Alvarado knew she couldn’t block the legislation, Alvarado kept speaking on the Senate floor. Just minutes after she put down the microphone, the Senate passed the measure 18-11.
However, the bill is still being stalled since Democrats continue to stay away from the state House of Representatives in a standoff that has now entered the 32nd day.
Civil Arrest Warrants Issued for Texas House Democrats
Alvarado’s filibuster began hours after officers of the Texas House of Representatives delivered civil arrest warrants for more than 50 absent Democrats on Wednesday. Frustrated Republicans have ratcheted up efforts to end the standoff over the elections bill.
On Tuesday, the Texas Supreme Court voided a state district judge’s temporary restraining order barring the lawmakers from being arrested. House lawmakers again ordered the chamber’s sergeant at arms and any law enforcement officer under their direction to round up the missing Democrats “under warrant of arrest if necessary,” according to the Texas Tribune.
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But after sergeants-at-arms finished making the rounds inside the Texas Capitol — dropping off copies of the warrants at Democrats’ offices, and politely asking staff to tell their bosses to please return — there were few signs the stalemate that began when Democrats fled to Washington, D.C., in July in order to grind the statehouse to a halt was any closer to a resolution.
What Comes Next? Neither Side Knows
The latest escalation threw the Texas Legislature into uncommon territory with neither side showing any certainty over what comes next, or how far Republicans could take their determination to secure a quorum of 100 present lawmakers — a threshold they were just four members shy of reaching.
“I don’t worry about things I can’t control,” said state Rep. Erin Zwiener, one of the Democrats who was served with a warrant and has refused to return to the Capitol. “Nothing about these warrants are a surprise, and they don’t necessarily affect my plans.”
Democrats, who acknowledge they cannot permanently stop the GOP voting bill from passing because of Republicans’ dominance in both chambers of the Texas Legislature, responded to the warrants with new shows of defiance. One turned up in a Houston courtroom and secured a court order aimed at preventing him from being forced to return to the Capitol.
A Civil Offense
Refusing to attend legislative sessions is a violation of House rules — a civil offense, not a criminal one, leaving the power the warrants carry to get Democrats back to the chamber unclear, even for the Republicans who invoked it. Democrats would not be jailed.
Republican Travis Clardy, who helped negotiate an early version of the voting bill that Democrats first stopped with a walkout in May, told ABC News he believed “they can be physically brought back to the Capitol.”
State Rep. Jim Murphy, who leads the Texas House Republican Caucus, said while he has not seen a situation like this play out during his tenure, his understanding is that officers could go to the missing lawmakers and ask them to come back.
“I am hoping they will come because the warrants have been issued and they don’t want to be arrested,” Murphy said. “It is incredible to me that you have to arrest people to do the job they campaigned for, for which they took an oath of office to uphold the Texas Constitution.”
The move marks a new effort by the GOP to end the protest over elections legislation that began a month ago with 50 Democrats taking private jets to Washington.
Republicans are now in the middle of their third attempt since May to pass a raft of tweaks and changes to the state’s election code.
The current Texas bill is similar to the one Democrats blocked last month by going to the nation’s capital. It would ban 24-hour polling locations, drive-thru voting and give partisan poll watchers more access to provide accountability to the process.
“We’re talking about (it being) easy to vote, hard to cheat, and that’s what this bill is about,” Sen. Bryan Hughes, the Mineola Republican who authored the legislation, said Wednesday, according to the Texas Tribune. “It cracks down on those vote harvesters, those paid political operatives who try to coerce voters, who try to mislead voters, who try to get in between the voter and her ballot. We will not have that in Texas.”
Responding to former Texas Democrat U.S. Senate candidate Beto O’Rourke on Twitter Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) sarcastically agreed with O’Rourke.
“Agree, don’t give up Texas Democrats! You’ve given us more comedic material than we could have ever imagined.”
Agree, don’t give up Texas Democrats! You’ve given us more comedic material than we could have ever imagined. https://t.co/o8ov3sOkLi
— Rep. Dan Crenshaw (@RepDanCrenshaw) August 10, 2021