Texas state House members reportedly voted 76-4 to send law enforcement to find and return absent Democrats "under warrant of arrest, if necessary," a day after dozens left the state in an effort to kill election legislation, the The Wall Street Journal reported.
The body cannot approve legislation without a two-thirds quorum of its 150 members.
Tuesday’s state House vote came as the state Senate was preparing to consider its own version of the elections bill, an ABC affiliate reported.
Both chambers of the GOP-controlled Texas legislature, in a special session that began last week, filed similar versions of the bill that would broadly tighten voting rules across the state, the Journal noted. Gov. Greg Abbott called the special session after Democrat House members walked out before a voting deadline at the end of the regular legislative session in May, denying a quorum needed to vote.
House Democrats staged another walkout Monday, and dozens boarded chartered planes bound for Washington, D.C., where they hope to draw national support for their fight. The legislators will have to remain out of the state for weeks to successfully run out the clock on the 30-day special session.
State Rep. Chris Turner, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, said in a news conference on the steps of the Capitol Tuesday at least 57 of 67 Democrats in the chamber had formally asked for their voting machines to be locked, the Journal reported.
In the House, 80 members who came Tuesday morning voted to approve a procedural move to record who is present, ban members from leaving the chamber without approval, and call for law enforcement to track down absentee lawmakers — arresting them if necessary and forcing them to return to the chamber, the Journal reported.
A total of 63 of the body’s 67 Democrats were gone, two of them with approved absence, the news outlet reported.
"Public pressure is going to get them to return to Texas — I don’t think it will come to them being handcuffed," GOP stateRep. Matt Shaheen told the Journal.
While Texas Democrats have promised to stay in Washington until the end of the special session Aug. 7, Abbott could continue to call special sessions to pass the voting bill. Democrats acknowledged the only long-term solution was federal legislation.
"We can’t stay here indefinitely," said Democrat state Rep. Rhetta Bowers, the Journal reported. "Texas Democrats will use everything in our power to fight back. But we need Congress to act now."
Former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke encouraged Twitter followers Monday to support the lawmakers, writing "These courageous public servants have put it all on the line for our democracy & the right to vote."
As of Monday evening, O’Rourke tweeted Democrats had raised over $142,000.
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