Without the protection against arrest, which was previously granted to more than 40 House Democrats by the district court in Harris County, absent Democrats found in Texas can be held and compelled by law enforcement to appear in the Capitol. They won’t, however, be criminally charged.
Texas GOP Governor Greg Abbott tweeted the news of the stay on Thursday, saying, “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.”
Dozens of House Democrats are in the process of breaking quorum in an attempt to prevent a GOP-backed voting restrictions bill that some Democrats say enables voter suppression, from becoming law.
Dozens of civil warrants of arrest were issued against the absent Democrats, and Republican House Speaker Dade Phelan deputized law enforcement to find them and make arrests.
After Texas state Senator Carol Alvarado (D) dominated the Senate floor for a 15-hour all-night filibuster in a last-ditch effort to stop the bill, the voting restrictions bill passed the Senate in an 18-11 tally Thursday morning.
In traditional filibuster rules, during that time, Alvarado was not permitted to eat, drink, lean, or sit on anything, or use the bathroom.
“My friends, voter suppression anywhere is a threat to democracy everywhere,” Alvarado said Thursday morning. “As we draw this discussion to an end, it is my sincere hope that civil acts by everyday Texans—from the Senate floor to the ballot box—can help shed the light.”
“What do we want our democracy to look like?” she finished. “Do we want our state to be more or less inclusive?. . . Instead of making it easier to vote, [this bill] makes it easier to intimidate. Instead of making it harder to cheat, it makes it harder to vote.”
Republican State Senator Bob Hall disagreed, calling the legislation “one of the best bills we’ve passed in a long time” after Thursday’s vote.
“We made changes, fundamental changes that will benefit all people,” Hall said. “It doesn’t matter your background, your ethnicity. It’s aimed at everyone in Texas to ensure that every vote counts.”
“There was a lot of input from all parties in there that, I think, made the bill better,” Hall said.
The controversial voting bill cannot be voted on in the state House until there is a quorum. It is unclear when that will be.
Newsweek reached out to the Governor’s office for comment.