TEXAS — As Texas Democrats remain camped out in Washington, D.C. protesting a GOP-backed elections bill, House Republicans voted Tuesday to track them down and potentially arrest them.
"The sergeant-at-arms and any officer appointed by him are directed to send for all absentees whose attendance is not excused for the purpose of maintaining their attendance under warrant of arrest, if necessary," House Speaker Dade Phelan said.
Democrats denied Republicans a quorum Tuesday so lawmakers in the House aren't able to conduct any business. But the impact of the move by the GOP to arrest is unclear since Texas law enforcement lacks jurisdiction in the nation's capital. In an interview on Capital Tonight, Gov. Greg Abbott said he plans to get the elections bill passed one way or another.
“I will keep calling special sessions until they do come back. There’s no jurisdiction for Texas law enforcement to make arrests of the Texas Democrats in D.C., but they can make arrests of the Democrats once they return to the state,” he said. “So, the only way Democrats can hide from this is remain out of the state. And what, I, as governor will do is, I will continue to call special session, after special session, after special session every single month until we address and vote on these bills.”
Gov. Abbott said he has no plans to negotiate with Democrats on the legislation because he said the claims criticizing it are “bogus.”
“This doesn’t have anything to do with denying people the right to vote,” he said.
Democrats argue the legislation could make it harder to vote, particularly for marginalized voters, by increasing access by poll watchers who could intimidate voters, also adding additional barriers to the ballot. The legislation also bans drive-thru voting and further restricts vote-by-mail rules, to name a few changes. Several of the most hotly debated provisions of the elections bill were eliminated, including one that would have made it easier for judges to overturn elections and another limiting early voting hours on Sundays.
Democrats said Tuesday from Washington, they could be willing to negotiate, if the governor stands down on his veto of funding for the legislature which includes staff salaries.
“You can’t withdraw a veto and that budget has already been passed and is law without the funding in there for the legislature,” Abbott argued. “There’s no legal authority to withdraw that veto. There’s only one legal thing that can be done and that is the legislature can show up and vote to fund the legislature.”
The Texas Senate approved funding for the legislature Tuesday, but without House Democrats there to do the same, it cannot go anywhere.
“The Democrats, they’re going to have to show up, if they’re going to fund the legislature because there is no withdrawing a veto about a law that is already in effect,” Abbott said.
Click the video link above to watch our full interview with Gov. Abbott.