Paxton Acquittal Sparks Leader Warring
and Talk on Push to Oust Phelan in SS
September 16, 2023
The Texas Senate voted on Saturday to acquit Attorney General Ken Paxton of corruption charges in a move that ignited a new war of words between legislative leaders and a move in the House to remove Speaker Dade Phelan in a special session as the engineer of the failed bid to take the state lawyer down.
Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick fired the first shot after the vote to let Paxton off - portraying the House case as a shameful debacle that he would use in a push for impeachment reform with a constitutional amendment that he would propose. Patrick vowed to have the Senate conduct an audit on the House's use of taxpayer funds for a probe that he decried as an epic waste that relied heavily on outside lawyers and investigators.
After three months of uncharacteristic silence in his role as impeachment judge, Patrick came out swinging in a post-vote analysis that excoriated House leaders for a reckless rush to judgment that ignored longstanding precedent and should never happen again.
Phelan countered with a ferocious assessment of the lieutenant governor as a jurist - saying that Patrick was "confessing his bias and placing his contempt for the people's House on full display."
Phelan suggested that Patrick had set the case up to fail in the Senate. "To be clear, Patrick attacked the House by standing up to corruption," the speaker said in a statement. "His tirade disrespects the Constitutional impeachment process afforded to us by the founders of this great state. The inescapable conclusion is that today's outcome appears to have been orchestrated from the start, cheating the people of Texas of justice."
Paxton portrayed the impeachment as a collaboration between President Joe Biden's administration and the Texas speaker. "The shameful impeachment coordinated by the Biden administration with liberal House Speaker Dade Phelan and his kangaroo court has cost taxpayers millions of dollars, disrupted the work of the Office of Attorney General and left and dark and permenant stain on the Texas House," the AG said in a statement on his X account.
But Phelan faced the prospects of an uprising in the lower chamber amid the backlash from the failure of a case that he'd persuaded 59 colleagues to support amid assurances from lieutenants that it would prevail in the Senate.
Conservatives are considering an attempt to oust Phelan with a motion to remove the chair when the Legislature convenes again in a special session that Governor Greg Abbott has promised to call this year. A vote on such a motion would give Republicans who backed Paxton's impeachment a chance for redemption with forces on the far right.
more to come ...