Several AWOL Democrat legislators have returned to Texas ending a 38-day standoff with the state legislature. The Democrats, whose approval ratings plummeted after the stunt, fled the state to prevent an election reform bill from being passed. Their about-face comes after the Texas Supreme Court ruled they can be arrested if they refuse to return.
The public relations and legal defeat of the liberal officials, including state Reps. Garnet Coleman, Ana Hernandez, and Amanda Wall, paves the way for Republicans to resume work on voting overhaul bills they hope will restore public confidence in future elections.
Last month, 52 Texas state House Democrats broke quorum when they abandoned their oath of office and fled legislative business in order to block the measure and others like it. Democrats have argued, without evidence, that the election reform bill would place unfair restrictions on minority groups when they cast their ballots.
The controversy even drew in Vice President Kamala Harris who was mocked for claiming that rural Americans don’t have access to copy machines. Thousands of farmers across the nation responded with social media selfies taken from their high-tech, satellite-run combines.
While only three Democrats returned to the Lone Star state, Republican House Speaker Dade Phelan said enough were there to achieve a quorum, which in the House is normally 100 present legislators.
While Republicans control both legislative chambers in Texas, as well as the governor’s mansion, two-thirds of lawmakers must be present to constitute a quorum. Republicans only hold 82 seats in the 150-seat lower chamber.
“It’s been a very long summer. Been through a lot. I appreciate you all being here,” Phelan said. “It’s time to get back to the business of the people of Texas.”
The three Democrats who returned to the Texas House from Washington D.C. issued a joint statement on Thursday defending their decision to leave last month.
The return of the democrats came a day after the Texas Supreme Court ruled that the state’s House Democrats can be arrested if they refuse to return to the state Capitol to conduct legislative business.
The opinion (pdf) orders district courts to rescind their temporary restraining orders handed to state Democrats who have broken quorum since last month.