Ken Paxton’s impeachment exposed how divided far-right and moderate Republicans in Texas have become, a political scientist says

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 26: Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton speaks to reporters after the Supreme Court oral argument in Biden v.  Texas at the Capitol Hill Supreme Court on Tuesday, April 26, 2022 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Sarah Silbiger for The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton before the Supreme CourtThe Washington Post/Getty Images

  • Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton was impeached on Saturday.

  • Many members of the Texas House who voted to impeach him were themselves Republicans.

  • The vote reveals a larger split between the far-right and moderate wings of the GOP.

After eight years of surrounding himself with controversy – but never getting into trouble – Ken Paxton, the Texas attorney general with close ties to the MAGA movement, was swiftly removed on Saturday.

On Wednesday, a Texas House investigative committee revealed it had investigated Paxton’s dealings with political donor Nate Paul – stemming from a 2020 whistleblower letter – and charged the attorney general with criminal conduct. The following day, the committee investigating him filed 20 articles of impeachment, alleging that Paxton engaged in bribery, obstruction of justice, misrepresentation in official documents, and more so during his tenure.

On Saturday, Paxton — a stalwart of right-wing Texas politics for more than two decades — was suspended from his post following a historic 121-23 vote to pass the 20 articles of impeachment.

The attorney general’s office called the vote an “irresponsible, baseless and illegal impeachment”, saying all of its actions in office were legal and that it never gave Paul special treatment.

For some, impeachment seemed long overdue. Paxton faces a criminal charge for criminal title fraud and multiple investigations since being sworn into the attorney general’s office in 2015.

“A shame for the state”

Although Paxton’s timing may surprise some, Cal Jillson, a political scientist at Southern Methodist University, told Insider that the Trump-loving attorney general, who moderators might consider “over the top on socially conservative issues” doesn’t had not been popular among some Republicans. for a while. All they needed was the perfect opportunity.

“They tolerated him, but also saw him as an embarrassment to the state and the state’s Republican Party…And so I think this was an opportunity to eliminate this guy from the scene of state and limit further embarrassment,” Jillson told Insider.

The opportunity arose, Jillson said, when Paxton, who owed $3.3 million to four former staffers in a whistleblower lawsuit after he fired some of them for being cast, argued with the Texas House appropriations subcommittee in February to increase the attorney’s budget. general’s office to pay the settlement.

Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan, a moderate Republican who later helped impeach Paxton, strongly opposed it, calling it a misuse of taxpayers’ money. The funding request launched the investigation into Paxton’s allegations, a spokesperson told The New York Times.

Jillson also noted that the overwhelming majority to impeach Paxton — even in a Republican-dominated House, with members who previously backed him — suggested the years of criminal allegations had become a focal point for many members. .

“That suggests to me that the vote wasn’t really on the debate or on the transcript that the inquiry committee provided to the members, but it was on what each member has watched over the last eight or nine years regarding the political and personal behavior of Ken Paxton,” Jillson said.

However, he says morality was probably not at stake. For Texas House Republicans, it was more about strategy.

“It’s not that morality doesn’t sometimes show up in politics, but it rarely drives events,” Jillson said. “But when events make the moral element of a matter unavoidable, there is a rush to declare that you have always felt deeply concerned about behavior like this.”

Moderate and Radical GOPs on the National Stage

Jillson noted that the conflict between the more radical elements of the party and the moderates in Texas has evolved over the past decade, ushered in by the Tea Party in 2010. The split is obvious, he said, passing , Lt. Governor Dan Patrick, also close to former President Donald Trump, became “increasingly and visibly dismissive” of Phelan.

It’s also evident in disagreements over policy, on everything from property taxes to public funding of education in private schools, The New York Times noted.

This GOP vs. GOP conflict in Texas reflects a nationwide struggle between Republicans that rarely, if ever, plays out like in Texas, Jillson said.

Jillson pointed to the multiple disputes between House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and the Freedom Caucus — a far-right wing in the House — over everything from who the president should be to recent debt ceiling negotiations, where GOP lawmakers accused McCarthy of “emasculating himself.” by compromising with President Joe Biden.

But unlike Republicans in Texas, less far-right GOP members like McCarthy don’t have a majority to stand on, because the nine-seat lead alone means that to get things done, Republicans must stick together.

“McCarthy is very vulnerable, and so he’s even more reluctant than the Republican majority in Texas to go against any of his own members,” Jillson said.

A representative for Paxton did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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