In July, more than 50 House Democrats decamped to Washington, D.C., during a 30-day specially called legislative session to block the passage of an elections bill they argued would restrict voting access. The remaining members in the chamber, mostly Republicans, voted to authorize a “call of the House” under which all entrances into the chamber can be locked and lawmakers are not permitted to leave without permission from the speaker.
Democratic State Rep. James Talarico was among the first to announce his return to Texas after State District Court Judge Brad Urrutia granted the restraining order. Texas Democratic lawmakers are smack in the middle of a weeks-long standoff with Abbott following their exit to Washington D.C., breaking quorum for a special legislative session the governor called in a bid to force consideration of the bill.
"Our quorum break shined a national spotlight on the TX voter suppression bill and pushed Congress closer to passing a federal voting rights act to override it," Talarico wrote on Twitter. "I’m confident they will. Now I’m back to clean up Greg Abbott’s latest messes from COVID to ERCOT."
The judge’s order bars Abbott and Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan, a Republican from "detaining, confining or otherwise restricting" the Democratic lawmakers within the state, the Texas Tribune reported. The initial restraining order expires after 14 days, however, it could be extended. The court will hear arguments on a temporary injunction on Aug. 20, and Abbott and Phelan must show why a temporary injunction should not be filed against them.
Some of the Texas Democrats have signaled they plan to remain in Washington D.C. to continue lobbying for federal voting legislation. State Rep. Ron Reynolds told the Houston Chronicle that roughly two dozen were still in Washington as of Monday.
Last month, Abbott told Fox News that lawmakers who left the state to block consideration of the bill would be arrested "as soon as they come back." The Texas governor has also vowed to call special sessions until the voting legislation is considered. A second special session began on Saturday.
Some Texas Democrats criticized members of their party who opted to participate in the special session.
Rep. Gina Hinojosa, one of the lawmakers named as a plaintiff in the motion for the restraining order, identified four Democrats who participated in Monday’s session.
"Quorum is still not met. Praying no other Democrats willingly go to Floor," Hinojosa said.
"There is currently an injunction stopping TX from arresting Democrats, yet these Democrats on the floor today chose to participate in voter suppression," said Rep. Ana-Maria Ramos, another plaintiff in the suit.
The Texas supreme Court has overruled that decision and new reports have indicated that arresr warrants were issued