Paxton Acquittal Sparks Renewed Hostilities between House, Senate

This past weekend, the Texas Senate voted to acquit Attorney General Ken Paxton on all 16 articles of impeachment brought against him by the Texas House. Only two of 19 Republicans in the Senate voted to impeach Paxton on any of the articles. All 12 Democrats voted to impeach Paxton on at least 14 of the 16 articles. 21 votes were required for impeachment.

Paxton faced a litany of charges, each broken out into its own impeachment article. These charges include constitutional bribery, disregard of official duty, and misappropriation of public resources, among others. We broke down the House’s decision to impeach Paxton, the rules of the trial adopted by the Senate, and the beginning of the trial in previous editions of the Hotline.

Despite evidence presented by known conservatives, decorated law enforcement officers, and Paxton’s own handpicked employees, the trial was branded by conservative activists as a liberal witch hunt. Sixty Republicans in the Texas House, including many of the most conservative members of that body, voted to impeach Paxton.

After the trial ended and the gag order prohibiting public comment from senators was lifted, several Republican senators and the lieutenant governor himself attacked the impeachment process in the Texas House. Lt. Governor Dan Patrick went as far as calling for an official audit of the House proceedings and retweeted a post from former President Donald Trump calling on Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan to resign. Phelan responded to these attacks and to Paxton’s acquittal with his own public statement accusing Patrick of orchestrating the outcome of the trial and putting his hand on the scales in favor of Paxton.

Resentment between the House and the Senate has been brewing for a long time, occasionally bubbling to the surface. The previous high water mark for public resentment between Phelan and Lt. Patrick revolved around their competing plans to provide property tax relief. The two sides only came to a compromise on that issue after two back-to-back special sessions.

As the Legislature prepares for a third special session to address taxpayer-funded vouchers, this open, mutual resentment between the leaders of both chambers will undoubtedly color the negotiations. Over the past several special sessions, voucher peddlers in the Texas Senate have passed several voucher schemes, but each of those plans has failed to pass the Texas House.