Aug 17, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Texas Supreme Court: GOP can have Dems absent from state Capitol arrested

State Senator John Whitmire, a Democrat from Texas, speaks during a news conference at the Texas State Capitol in Austin, Texas, U.S., on Wednesday, July 21

Texas Democratic State Sen. John Whitmire during a July news conference at the Texas State Capitol in Austin. Photo: Sergio Flores/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Texas Supreme Court ruled Tuesday evening the state's House Democrats can be arrested if they don't attend the state Capitol due to their efforts to stop a Republican push to pass voting restrictions.

Why it matters: While the court has already blocked lower court orders in Travis and Harris counties protecting the Democrats, this ruling stipulates that under the state Constitution, House leaders can compel members to attend the chamber to conduct legislative business. Consequently, those who do not attend can be arrested.

Details: "The question now before this Court is not whether it is a good idea for the Texas House of Representatives to arrest absent members to compel a quorum," the court said in an opinion.

  • "Nor is the question whether the proposed voting legislation giving rise to this dispute is desirable. Those are political questions far outside the scope of the judicial function."
  • The court noted that the legal question it was presented with "concerns only whether the Texas Constitution gives the House of Representatives the authority to physically compel" absent members to attend the chamber.
  • "We conclude that it does, and we therefore direct the district court to withdraw the [temporary restraining order]," the state Supreme Court added.
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