One month ago, Texas House Democrats left the state to deny Republican Gov. Greg Abbott and the Republican legislature the ability to gut voting rights in a special session. The Democratic lawmakers left the state for Washington, D.C., where they’ve been lobbying—so far unsuccessfully—for U.S. Senate Democrats to do the essential thing: nuke the filibuster and pass the voting rights legislation that would allow them to return home.
Their exile is going to have to continue, because they are now subject to arrest if they set foot back in Texas. The Texas Supreme Court stayed a temporary restraining order issued by state District Judge Brad Urrutia on Monday. That order barred their arrest for the next 14 days pending arguments on a temporary injunction scheduled for Aug. 20. But at the request of Abbott and House Speaker Dade Phelan, the state’s Supreme Court stopped that injunction.
Abbott and Phelan argued that “Compelling the attendance of absent members by the House is a quintessential legislative act,” adding that Urrutia’s “hasty” order “ignores this fundamental principle.” The state, on their behalf, also argued that the House Democrats’ were claiming “quintessential political questions” in which courts cannot intervene. They argue that the House’s rules allow for the members who are present to “compel” the attendance of the rest of their body. The House Democrats’ lawyers argued that the Supreme Court granting Abbott’s order would free Republicans “to forcibly arrest political opponents who have committed no crime.” They argued that once a lawmaker was arrested “without a premeditating crime or due process, the Court cannot un-ring that bell.” The Texas Supreme Court is apparently fine with that.
Meanwhile, Republicans would have a hard time getting a quorum anyway because they are death cult members and keep infecting each other with COVID-19.
The Texas Senate, meanwhile, is moving forward on voting restrictions. On Monday, the Senate State Affairs Committee advanced SB 1, which would outlaw local governments from advancing initiatives to expand access, restrict vote-by-mail, allow partisan “poll watchers” to potentially harass and intimidate voters while limiting their oversight by election officials, and establish new rules—with possible criminal penalties to prevent people from assisting others cast their ballots. That would include caregivers assisting people with disabilities in voting.
Now that the Senate has gotten the time-suck that has been the bipartisan infrastructure bill out of the way, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer needs to follow through on his feint of bringing voting rights to the floor before the Senate leaves this week for recess, and he needs to get President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris to help him.
Time is of the essence—not just for the freedom of Texas Democrats, but because states are going to start the redistricting process next week, drawing up new congressional districts. Every Republican in charge of that process is going to cheat, creating ridiculous gerrymanders to eliminate Democratic House seats. There’s absolutely no question that this is the intent of every elected Republican at this point.
Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema are going to have to be made to see that, whatever it takes.
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.