Fact Check: Can Texas Arrest And ‘Handcuff’ House Democrats Who Fled The State

Our weekly check-in with the Texas Truth-O-Meter.

By Brandon Mulder, PolitiFact/Austin American-Statesman; radio story produced by Alexandra HartJuly 21, 2021 3:21 pm,

From PolitiFact Texas:

On Tuesday morning, less than 24 hours after Texas Democratic legislators fled their home state to block passage of a GOP voting rights bill, USA Today reporter Savannah Behrmann caught up with U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, for his thoughts on the errant lawmakers.

It’s nothing but a political stunt that is doomed to fail, he said. And as soon as they return to the state he expects their immediate arrest, echoing a pledge made earlier this week by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.

“There is clear legal authority to handcuff and put in leg irons legislators that are trying to stop the Legislature from being able to do business,” Cruz said in a hallway interview. And that “clear legal authority” is explicitly expressed in the state constitution, a fact he learned 18 years ago when state Democrats made their last exodus to thwart a GOP-backed congressional redistricting effort.

In 2003, before Cruz became a national household name, he was appointed to serve as the Texas Solicitor General by then-Attorney General Greg Abbott. That same year, Republicans’ redistricting plans were foiled when at least 50 Democratic state House members broke quorum and fled to Ardmore, Okla., forcing Texas Gov. Rick Perry to call a special session. During that special session, the Republican effort was scuttled again when 11 Democratic state senators made their own quorum-breaking getaway by fleeing to Albuquerque, N.M.

At the time, Speaker of the House Tom Craddick asked Abbott what legal authority the House has to arrest its absent Democratic colleagues. According to Cruz, that question was placed in Cruz’s hands.

“Abbott asked me. I researched it. It turns out the Texas Constitution has a provision that explicitly authorizes fleeing House members to be arrested,” Cruz recalled Tuesday.

But Cruz’s interpretation of the constitution doesn’t appear to be shared by all…

Read the full story and see how Cruz’s claim scored at PolitiFact. And listen to an interview with PolitiFact’s Brandon Mulder in the audio player above.

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