Texas House to vote Saturday on impeaching Attorney General Ken Paxton
Austin, Texas — The GOP-led Texas House of Representatives on Saturday will take up a resolution to impeach Attorney General Ken Paxton, according to a memo from the committee that on Thursday filed 20 articles of impeachment against him.
Debate on the impeachment resolution will begin at 2 p.m. ET, according to the House Investigating Committee. The committee has proposed four hours of debate, evenly divided between proponents and supporters of impeachment, plus 40 minutes for opening arguments by committee members and 20 minutes for closing statements.
Impeaching Paxton requires a simple majority of House members. Republicans hold an 85-64 majority in the House — a commanding majority, but a decrease from the more than 40-seat edge the party had as recently as 2017.
The House Investigating Committee on Thursday recommended 20 articles of impeachment against Paxton, which included accusations of bribery, obstruction of justice and abuse of the public trust. Paxton has been under FBI investigation for years over accusations that he used his office to help a donor and was separately indicted on securities fraud charges in 2015, according to CBS News Texas.
Paxton spoke to reporters Friday but did not directly address any of the allegations against him. Instead, he accused state House Republicans of being "determined to ignore the law." He also accused them of being "poised to do exactly what Joe Biden has been hoping to accomplish since his first day in office: Sabotage my work, our work, as attorney general in Texas."
According to the memo by Republican Rep. Andrew Murr, the chair of the Investigating Committee, the investigation into Paxton began in March after he asked the House to fund a $3.3 million whistleblower lawsuit settlement.
Paxton is a staunch ally of former President Donald Trump and he filed a lawsuit in Dec. 2020 seeking to overturn presidential election results in key battleground states, which was later tossed by the Supreme Court.
Paxton on Thursday tweeted a statement that accused the Investigating Committee of asking the Texas House to "use their unsubstantiated report to overturn the results of a free and fair election." Chris Hilton, the attorney general's chief litigator, said Thursday that the state House could not move forward with impeachment for allegations that occurred before the last election. In Friday's memo, the House Investigating Committee said this so-called "forgiveness doctrine" "does not apply to impeachment."
Paxton won a third term in November, defeating Democrat Rochelle Garza by nearly 10 points.
If the House votes to impeach Paxton, he will face a trial in the Texas state Senate. According to the memo, the House will appoint their own members as "impeachment managers" to conduct the trial in the Senate.
The 2023 Texas legislative session will end on May 29 — a date known as "sine die," or when all legislation must be sent to the governor's desk. Although normally only the governor can bring lawmakers back in a special session, the Texas Constitution says the Senate may continue an impeachment trial beyond the end of session.
Republicans hold a 19-12 majority in the Senate, and a two-thirds majority is needed to remove him from office. But according to the Texas state Constitution, if Paxton is impeached, he would be immediately suspended, pending the trial in the Senate.
The Senate has only expelled lawmakers twice, Gov. James Ferguson in 1917 and District Judge O.P. Carrillo in 1975. Former state Rep. Sherri Greenberg, assistant dean at the Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at University of Texas-Austin, on Friday called the impeachment "earth-shattering."
"This has really set off a tidal wave," Greenberg said. "It's rare, we've only seen a couple of times in Texas history, the impeachment of a public official."
The recommendation to bring articles of impeachment against Paxton came just weeks after the House of Representatives took the extraordinary step of voting unanimously to expel Republican Rep. Byran Slaton, who had resigned one day earlier. The House Investigating Committee, the same committee that conducted the probe into Paxton, had found that he had inappropriate sexual conduct with a 19-year-old intern.