Greg Abbott Says Fleeing Texas Democrats 'Will Be Arrested' When They Return to State

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has said that Democratic lawmakers who have left the state can and "will be arrested" upon their return as he pushes ahead with changes in voting laws.

Abbott, a Republican, gave an interview to KVUE on Monday about the Democrats' decision to leave the state and whether the special session of the Texas legislature the governor called can go ahead.

The Democratic legislators flew out of Texas to Washington, D.C. on Monday in order to deny the legislature the two-thirds quorum needed in order to conduct business and to pass legislation.

KVUE asked Abbott if the Democratic walkout meant the voting bills - Senate Bill 1 and House Bill 3 - could not be passed and if he could do anything as governor to compel the lawmakers to return to the state.

Abbott said there "still remains plenty of time to pass not just the bills you mentioned but there's a lot of other bills on there."

He highlighted some of the measures other than voting reforms. He then addressed the issue of the quorum.

"Answering your second question, yes, there is something the governor can do," Abbott said.

"First of all, I'll tell you what the House of Representatives can do. What the speaker can do is issue a call to have these members arrested.

"In addition to that, however, I can and I will continue to call a special session after special session after special session all the way up until election next year. And so if these people want to be hanging out wherever they're hanging out on this taxpayer-paid junket, they're going to have to be prepared to do it for well over a year," the governor said.

"As soon as they come back in the state of Texas, they will be arrested, they will be cabined inside the Texas Capitol until they get their job done. Everybody who has a job must show up to do that job, just like your viewers watching right now. State representatives have that same responsibility."

Over the weekend, Republicans in the state legislature worked to rapidly advance the two voting bills. Those bills would add new ID requirements for mail-in ballots and ban 24-hour polling locations, drive-thru voting and ballot drop boxes, among other measures.

Critics say these changes will make it harder for people to vote and disproportionately affect people of color. Abbott has repeatedly defended the new measures, telling KVUE: "Anyone who suggests this deprives anybody [of] the right to vote is just simply flat-out wrong."

Under Texas law, absent lawmakers can face arrest and be compelled to attend the legislature. In 2003, Democrats in the legislature fled the state for Oklahoma and successfully prevented the passage of a redistricting plan.

Texas Democrats staged a walkout in May and successfully stopped an earlier version of the voting legislation from passing. However, the lawmakers may have to remain outside of Texas for weeks or longer in order to prevent the current proposals from passing if Abbott continues calling special sessions as he's suggested.

The Texas Democratic Party issued a statement on the walkout on Monday, saying: "After Democrats historically blocked Republicans' anti-voter efforts in the spring legislative session, Abbott called an irregular extra legislative session in order to resurrect the anti-voter legislation — Republicans' main hope of holding onto power in the 2022 election.

"In response to Republicans' escalation of their attacks on voters, Democrats continue to hold the line," the statement said.

Newsweek has asked the Texas Democratic Party for comment.

Greg Abbott Speaks During a Press Conference
Texas Governor Greg Abbott speaks during a press conference where he signed Senate Bills 2 and 3 at the Capitol on June 8, 2021 in Austin, Texas. Abbott has said Democratic lawmakers who have fled the state will be arrested upon their return. Montinique Monroe/Getty Images