By J.D. Miles

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM/AP) – The face-off between state republican leaders and Democratic legislators who are evading a second special session has reached a critical stage.

The Texas House voted Tuesday, August 10, to approve arresting the AWOL Democrats, some of whom have fled to Washington, D.C.

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The vote in the House was 80-12 to issue warrants for absent Democrats.

It came only hours after the Texas Supreme Court cleared the way for the state to arrest and return legislators who are preventing a special session from securing a quorum.

Speaker Dade Phelan signed 52 civil arrest warrants Tuesday evening, which will be delivered to the House Sergeant-at-Arms Wednesday morning for service.

The move and other setbacks for Democrats put the protest over a GOP elections overhaul on unsteady ground a month after more than 50 of them bolted to Washington, D.C., in a dramatic show of unity to make Texas the front lines of a new national battle over voting rights.

Eric Cedillo is an SMU law professor who says it’s unlikely any of the Democrats who fled to Washington, D.C. could be apprehended unless they return to Texas.

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“A few others have not actually returned to the chamber, but I believe are in Austin or around Austin so it’s those folks that probably have, if in fact Phelan decides to have a call to order which would allow for the arrest of those individuals who could be found in the state of Texas,” said Cedillo.

Only five Democrats are needed in the chamber to reach a quorum.

The Democrats have until Thursday, August 12, to file a response to the Texas Supreme Court decision.

“We had many heated debates in Washington as we debated our own next steps,” said state Rep. James Talarico, one of a handful of Democrats who returned to the Texas Capitol this week. “I’m going to keep those arguments in private. But I know emotions are rightfully running high everywhere, and it’s been a difficult month.”

(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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