Texas Republicans, irked by their Democratic colleagues who fled the capitol Monday to block passage of a controversial redistricting bill, issued their own red alert this week. They called on the Department of Homeland Security to track down the truants.
The Republicans hired the Air and Marine Interdiction and Coordination Center?a Riverside, California, agency operating under the Department of Homeland Security?to locate the 51 Democrats. According to a report in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the agency tracked an aircraft belonging to former House Speaker Pete Laney. Laney?s plane led Republican House Speaker Tom Craddick to the Ardmore, Oklahoma, Holiday Inn, where most of the group was staying.
The 51 Democrats left the capitol in Austin to prevent the passage of a bill in the Republican-controlled House that would eliminate five Texas Democrats from the U.S. Congress.
Once the legislators? whereabouts were determined, Craddick asked U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay to send the FBI and U.S. Marshals to apprehend them. The task was ultimately assigned to three divisions of the Texas DPS?the state troopers, Texas Rangers, and the Special Crimes unit. Although the truant legislators have broken no laws, DPS officers have the authority to arrest them and return them to the House in order to meet the requisite quorum. Despite the harassment of legislators? family and staff, only one House member, Rep. Helen Giddings, has been apprehended.