IssuesState HouseDivide Widens Among Texas House Democrats as Some Return to Austin While Others Criticize From D.C.

The Texas House was close to achieving a quorum as some Democrats direct biting criticisms toward those who have chosen to return to Austin.
and August 9, 2021
Determination among Texas Democrats turned to agitation on Monday afternoon as the bloc of lawmakers denying the chamber a quorum to scuttle GOP-backed election reform legislation began to dwindle.

Four House Democrats — Reps. Joe Moody (D-El Paso), James Talarico (D-Round Rock), Mary González (D-Clint), and Art Fierro (D-El Paso) — returned to the chamber after nearly 60 members broke quorum by flying to Washington, D.C. for nearly a month. 

Moody is among the leaders of the House Democrats, and until last month he was the speaker pro tempore of the body.

When Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) called the House to order, only 93 of 150 total members registered. Shortly after, Rep. Eddie Morales (D-Eagle Pass), who was one of the few Democrats who never broke quorum, also joined his colleagues in the chamber.

And some time after that, Rep. Travis Clardy (R-Nacogdoches) was shown as present. Because he is still recovering from coronavirus, Clardy stayed in an adjacent room.

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Phelan then told the body that he “expect[ed] several other members to arrive within the hour.”

In a social media post, Rep. Jasmine Crockett (D-Dallas), who previously called her colleagues who supported the election reform bill “terrorists,” lashed out at Democrats who had returned to Austin.

“I’ve said this before… it’s a Team Sport… now we see who plays what positions on the Team,” Crockett wrote. “The fact that some of us secured a Temporary Restraining Order to protect ALL of us, yet some are trying to please the Governor and His OPPRESSIVE Agenda?! JUST WOW!”

Identifying the four colleagues of hers that had returned, Rep. Gina Hinojosa (D-Austin) tweeted, “Quorum is still not met. Praying no other Democrats willingly go to [the] Floor.”

Of the group that originally flew to Washington, D.C., 26 committed over the weekend to remain in the nation’s capital, less than half the number that broke quorum.

During the July special session, the lower chamber issued a “call of the House,” which is a procedural mechanism for securing a legislative quorum, which is two-thirds or 100 members.

Upon a motion by Rep. Tony Tinderholt (R-Arlington), the chamber approved another call of the House Monday by a vote of 80 to nine, prompting Phelan to secure the room and require members to seek written permission before leaving.

Though the Texas House rules permit the sergeant at arms or anyone he deputizes to apprehend absent lawmakers and return them to the chamber, a state district judge in Austin issued a ruling Monday blocking the arrest of absent members via a temporary restraining order.

As during the last special session, which was rendered practically useless by the quorum bust, a call of the House means the chamber cannot recess or take any action except prayer, adjournment, or “to compel the attendance of absent members.”

The House is set to meet again at 4:00 p.m. on Tuesday.


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Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson is a senior reporter for The Texan and an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.