Arrest Warrant Issued for Texas Democrat Who Fled to D.C.

Arrest Warrant Issued for Texas Democrat Who Fled to D.C.

The Texas Speaker of the House of Representatives issued a warrant for the arrest of a Democrat member who fled to Washington, D.C. to avoid a special session. The San Antonio-area Democrat traveled to the nation’s capital with fellow legislators to break quorum and prevent the House from voting on legislation involving election reforms.

Speaker of the House Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) signed a civil arrest warrant on Monday for State Representative Philip Cortez (D-San Antonio) for his failure to return to the House of Representatives, the Texas Tribune reported. Cortez abandoned his fellow Democrats late last week when he unexpectedly returned to Texas. Cortez claimed he returned to Austin to attempt to engage in a “good faith dialogue” on the matter of House Bill 3, the election law reform bill.

After receiving harsh criticism from fellow Democrats for returning to Austin without consulting them, Cortez returned to Washington, D.C. The San Antonio Democrat currently serves as chairman of the House Urban Affairs Committee.

Speaker Phelan issued a statement saying, in part, that Cortez had “irrevocably broken my trust and the trust of the chamber.” The speaker added that Cortez “represented to me and his fellow members that he wanted to work on policy and find solutions to bring his colleagues back to Texas.”

“As a condition of being granted permission to temporarily leave the House floor, Rep. Cortez promised his House colleagues that he would return,” Phalen said. “Instead, he fled the state.”

Cortez sidestepped the speaker’s comments and the issue of the arrest warrant in his own statement on Monday. He said he owes “a duty to my constituents to do everything I can to stop this harmful legislation.” He did not say what is harmful in the legislation.

The warrant issued by Speaker Phelan appears to be more symbolic than substantive. As long as the Democrat representative remains outside the state, the warrant has no means of being executed, according to the Austin American-Stateman.

Bob Price