Texas House authorizes sergeant at arms to bring fugitive Dem legislators back -- by arresting them if necessary

Texas House authorizes sergeant at arms to bring fugitive Dem legislators back -- by arresting them if necessary

The vote went 76-4, as there were a few Democrats left who didn’t board the party bus to D.C. yesterday and instead hung around in Austin to do their jobs.

I’m imagining the Texas Rangers rolling up outside the Marriott in Washington in one of those big prisoner buses, arm and leg shackles in hand, to make the collar.

Nah, actually, this is symbolic more so than it is an actual arrest warrant. I think.

The Texas Tribune remembered what happened the last time Democratic legislators absconded to block a quorum in the legislature, in 2003:

The last time the Democrats broke quorum and fled the state in 2003, Texas Republicans asked the attorneys general in Oklahoma and New Mexico if Texas troopers could arrest the lawmakers in their states without a warrant and bring them back to Texas. Both states said no.

Republican leaders at the time also asked whether federal authorities could bring the Democrats back, but the FBI and Justice Department said at the time that they had no justification for intervening.

I’m going to guess that Merrick Garland, Chris Wray, and Muriel Bowser will be similarly unwilling to get in the middle of the standoff. It’s destined to fizzle out within six weeks anyway, as the Tribune notes that funding for the legislative branch will run out on August 31. If the fleebaggers aren’t back by then to approve the appropriation, their own staffers will go hungry.

If the Rangers do end up traveling to Washington, it won’t be hard to track the suspects down. Just hang around outside the Capitol and look for the people who are photographing and recording themselves 24/7:

You might find them singing too:

How are they paying for their camp outing in Washington? Through donor donations, it seems: “We’re doing it the old-fashioned way,” said one fugitive Dem to local media this morning “We’re fundraising this ourselves. This is paid for by the Democratic caucus, which means we’ve got to raise money through events, through small donations.” They’ve received more than $100,000 so far, and money to keep them going should end up being no problem given the adoring media coverage this stunt is destined to attract. Top Democrats are helping to promote them as well, with Chuck Schumer set to meet with them this afternoon to discuss the filibuster and H.R. 1.

Speaking of which, one of them turned up last night on Chris Cuomo’s show as part of their ubiquitous media tour. You’re trying to get Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema to ditch the filibuster, asked Cuomo, but you guys are engaged in a filibuster of your own right now. Why shouldn’t Republicans in the Senate avail themselves of the same obstruction tactics? Well, this was our only option, came the reply — but the filibuster is also the Senate GOP’s only option to stop H.R. 1. It’s a distinction without a difference, one that’ll make it easier for Republicans to highlight Democratic hypocrisy on the filibuster.

The other thing that absconding from the state does is it turns what’s supposed to be a debate on the substance of the Texas bill into a debate about the extreme procedural tactics being used to obstruct it. At first blush, that seems inane: Why would the Texas Dems want the public focused on the propriety of what they’re doing instead of the propriety of what Texas Republicans are doing by passing the bill? But when you realize that the changes made by Texas’s bill to tighten voting requirements are less aggressive than the hype would have us believe (as was also true with Georgia’s voting law earlier this year), then maybe there’s a certain cunning to taking radical measures to block it. Most Americans won’t bother to familiarize themselves with the bill, after all. All they’ll know is that it must be really draconian for Democrats to literally flee the state in order to block it.

Republicans are happy to engage them on the terms they’ve chosen, though, as no one except the most hardcore partisan likes a fleebagger. I’ll leave you with John Cornyn taking advantage on the Senate floor this morning. And yes, he does point out that they had a case of Miller Lite with them on the bus to the airport.

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David Strom 6:01 PM on March 29, 2023