Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan on Monday signed a civil arrest warrant for a Democrat state lawmaker who left the state earlier this month and then returned to Texas last week before going back with his colleagues again to Washington, D.C.
The civil arrest warrant for Rep. Philip Cortez, the Democrat, won’t have an immediate impact because Texas law enforcement lacks jurisdiction outside the state. Earlier this month, Democratic state lawmakers fled the state, arguing that it was necessary for blocking the passage of a voting overhaul bill that they described as an attempt to suppress minority groups’ voting rights.
Last week, Cortez returned to Austin, Texas, from Washington and said he wanted to engage in “good faith dialogue” about the voting measure, which drew criticism from other Democrats. But Cortez went back to the nation’s capital over the weekend, stating that talks with Republicans on the bill “have not produced progress.”
When the nearly 60 Democrats left the state to deny Republicans quorum to start a special legislative session, Phelan and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said they would arrest and detain the lawmakers when they return to the Lone Star State. Cortez’s arrest warrant was the first issued by the House speaker.
In a statement Monday, Phelan said that Cortez “irrevocably broken my trust and the trust of this chamber” after he “represented to me and his fellow members that he wanted to work on policy and find solutions to bring his colleagues back to Texas.”
“As a condition of being granted permission to temporarily leave the House floor,” Phelan added, “Rep. Cortez promised his House colleagues that he would return.” But “instead, he fled the state,” he said.
Since they arrived in Washington, the Democrats have met with Vice President Kamala Harris, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and other top Democrats. At least six Texas Democrats, a Pelosi aide, and a White House aide contracted COVID-19, the illness caused by the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, last week.
According to a copy of the warrant, Phelan directed the House Sergeant-at-Arms’ office and “any officer appointed by him” to take Cortez, “who is now absent from the House, wherever said Member may be found in the State, into your custody and safekeeping and bring said Member before the bar of the House instanter.” Then, under the Texas Constitution, Cortez should then be compelled to attend the House session “in the manner provided under the House Rules of Procedure,” the warrant said.
After Cortez returned to Washington, Texas House Democratic Caucus Chair Chris Turner sang his praises and said in a statement “our unity is our strength.”
“We welcome Rep. Phil Cortez, who is a valued member of our Caucus, back to Washington, D.C. with open arms,” Turner added. “All 57 Democrats breaking quorum are just as firm in our commitment to seeing this through until the end as we were the day we left. We are united and unrelenting in our commitment to protect the freedom to vote.”
The Epoch Times contacted Cortez’s office for comment.