Judge temporarily blocks arrests of state Democrat lawmakers who fled Texas to avoid voting on bill

The Texas Democratic lawmakers have been in Washington, D.C., since July.
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Texas Democrats on Capitol Hill
Texas Democrats on Capitol Hill
(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The arrests of Texas Democratic lawmakers for leaving the state to prevent quorum on a GOP election reform bill have been temporarily blocked by a district judge on Sunday.

Governor Greg Abbott (R) and state House Speaker Dade Phelan (R) issued the arrest warrants for when the Democratic lawmakers reenter the state, but District Judge Brad Urrutia signed a temporary restraining order that would allow the legislators to reenter the state without being arrested, The Hill reported.

The restraining order applies to the Texas House sergeant-at-arms, Department of Public Safety, the Texas Rangers, Capitol police, along with other law enforcement agencies. The order will expire in two weeks without an extension and a hearing on the issue is scheduled for later in August, according to the Austin American-Statesman.

Of the 57 members who broke the quorum, 22 filed a lawsuit requesting the restraining order, although three of them asked to be removed from it as they either hadn't agreed to be included or did not know what the lawsuit was to include, the local outlet reported.

"Angry Republican threats to dispatch troopers to arrest, cuff, shackle, drag in, and cabin duly-elected lawmakers isn't just meant to chill our speech and impair our ability to represent our districts; it has left our families, friends, and neighbors anxious for our wellbeing and safety," Democratic state Rep. Gina Hinojosa said in a statement.

A civil arrest warrant was issued for Rep. Philip Cortez (D-San Antonio), but he returned to the state capital during the special session in hopes of negotiating with Republicans on the election bill, although he returned to Washington, D.C., days later, the Austin American-Statesman reported.

At least 26 of the Texas Democratic lawmakers said they plan to stay in D.C., preventing a quorum for the election bill.