Texas House Speaker signs arrest warrant for Democratic lawmaker who returned to the state

Monday, July 26, 2021
Texas House Republicans vote to arrest absent Democrats
The arrest warrant tells the sergeant at arms and Texas DPS to arrest state representatives who broke quorum and bring them back.

AUSTIN, Texas -- Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan, R-Beaumont, signed a civil warrant for the arrest of state Rep. Philip Cortez, a San Antonio Democrat who on Sunday rejoined his colleagues in Washington, D.C., to help prevent the passage of a GOP-backed election bill.

The warrant is not likely to have impact since Texas law enforcement lacks jurisdiction outside the state, though it is the first one signed by the speaker since over 50 House Democrats left the state to block Republicans from having the quorum needed to pass legislation during the special legislative session that began earlier this month.

Last week, Cortez returned to Austin from D.C. in what he said was an attempt to engage in "good faith dialogue" about House Bill 3, the voting restrictions legislation. Other Democrats criticized Cortez's move, saying the lawmaker did not first consult with them before returning to Austin.

By Sunday, Cortez was back in D.C., saying in a statement that "discussions on improving" the legislation had "not produced progress."

The video above is from a July 13, 2021, report by ABC13's Ted Oberg who traveled to Washington D.C. in the days after a little over 50 House Democrats broke quorum.

In a statement Monday, Phelan said that Cortez had "represented to me and his fellow members that he wanted to work on policy and find solutions to bring his colleagues back to Texas."

"As a condition of being granted permission to temporarily leave the House floor, Rep. Cortez promised his House colleagues that he would return," the speaker said in a statement. "Instead, he fled the state and has irrevocably broken my trust and the trust of this chamber."

Cortez did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.

After Democrats left the state, the House voted overwhelmingly to issue what's known as a "call of the House" in an effort to regain quorum. Part of that effort included sending law enforcement after those Democrats, though Republicans acknowledged that state authorities couldn't force lawmakers back to the Capitol so long as they remained out of state.

SEE MORE: Texas House Republicans vote to track down absent Democrats and arrest them

The current special session is slated to end Aug. 6, and Democrats have said they do not plan to return to the state before then. Gov. Greg Abbott has said he plans to call additional special sessions to get his priority legislation passed.

The Texas Tribune is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans - and engages with them - about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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