And I’m still not sure what exactly will happen when and if a law enforcement officer stumbles across one of the wayward legislators.
The hunt for missing Democratic Texas House members escalated late Thursday and Friday, as the sergeant-at-arms and law enforcement visited some of the absentees’ homes with the aim of bringing them to the Capitol.
Earlier this week, Republican House Speaker Dade Phelan issued civil arrest warrants for 52 Democrats who have refused to report to the House for a month now, depriving the Republican majority of the 100-member quorum needed to vote on legislation during two special sessions.
The warrants allow law enforcement to order, and even escort, members back to the chamber. But given that they are not guilty of a crime, members are not at risk of going to jail.
The first step in the search came Wednesday, when the sergeant-at-arms stopped by the Democrats’ Capitol offices and left copies of the warrants with their staffs.
On Thursday and Friday, law enforcement visited the homes of at least a few Austin Democrats, with the aim of bringing them back to the chamber, but found none of them.
Rep. Jon Rosenthal, D-Houston, returned to Texas last week but has not disclosed his location. He said Friday that he was unaware of any widespread effort to “physically collect folks” and was for the most part going about his life.
“I’m certainly not running around wearing Jon Rosenthal campaign gear or anything like that,” he said. “But I feel comfortable being outside and doing the things that normal humans do.”
An engineer by training, Rosenthal said he was still having meetings with constituents by phone or Zoom, as he has throughout much of the pandemic.
“I wouldn’t engage in anything like this if it wasn’t such an important, fundamental core issue,” he said.
Also Friday, Derrick Johnson, president and CEO of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, urged the Justice Department in a letter to intervene in Texas and determine that Abbott and Republican lawmakers were engaging in a civil rights conspiracy and violating Democratic members’ constitutional rights by using the threat of a civil arrest to compel attendance. The process for restoring a quorum is outlined in rules of the House that were unanimously adopted by members, including the Democrats, in the spring.
Johnson said he’d spoken with Black lawmakers — Reps. Jasmine Crockett of Dallas, Joe Deshotel of Beaumont and Ron Reynolds of Missouri City — and all of them supported Justice Department intervention.
See here and here for some background. The NAACP intervention is spurred in part by some yahoos offering a bounty to police officers for catching the Dems, which is very much the sort of thing no one should be encouraging. Again, I have no idea how this all plays out. How much does law enforcement even care about this? And what is the plan if and when they find someone? I don’t think anyone knows. I think when a police officer happens to encounter one of the quorum busters, no one has a clear idea of what happens next. I mean, given that it’s not a criminal warrant and there’s no threat of arrest, what is to stop the legislator from just walking away? All of this is completely half-baked, and is headed for a farce. Whatever the Republicans think they’re going to get out of this, I doubt they will be satisfied.