By Zachary Stieber
Law enforcement officers in Texas were deputized on Thursday to go find House Democrats who are refusing to go to Austin, preventing the state’s lower chamber from reaching a quorum.
The House Sergeant-at-Arms “deputized members of Texas law enforcement to assist in the House’s efforts to compel a quorum,” Enrique Marquez, a spokesman for Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan, told news outlets in a statement.
“That process will begin in earnest immediately,” he added.
Phelan, a Republican, on Tuesday signed arrest warrants for the 52 lawmakers who are refusing to appear, but that action has not led to a quorum so far.
Texas law allows for the arrest of lawmakers who aren’t doing their duty. It wasn’t clear whether the deputized officers will arrest the missing legislators. The Texas Department of Public Safety told The Epoch Times in an email that it “does not comment on operational specifics” and referred requests for comment to Phelan’s office, which did not return a query.
The Texas Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled Democrats who didn’t show up at the state Capitol in Austin could be arrested, overturning a lower court decision. On Thursday, the state’s top court blocked orders from judges that would have prevented the Democrats from being apprehended.
A judge in Harris County had granted writ Habeas Corpus, or orders that appeared to protect at least some of the Democrats.
“The Dems have filed some of the most embarrassing lawsuits ever seen. Time for them to get to the Capitol and do the job they were elected to do,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, said in a statement.
State Rep. Gene Wu, a Democrat, told news outlets after the ruling that Texas House Democrats “remain committed to fighting back with everything we have to protect Texans from Republicans’ repeated attacks on our freedom to vote.”
Democrats last month flew to Washington, preventing the Texas House from taking up election reform legislation. Some remain in the nation’s capital.
The Texas Senate early Thursday passed one of the bills, but cannot deliver it to the House because of the lack of a quorum.
Two-thirds of lawmakers must be present to constitute a quorum in the lower chamber. Republicans hold 82 seats in the 150-seat lower chamber.
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