Democratic members of the Tennessee House of Representatives assembled a list Thursday of what does not get a Republican legislator expelled as the GOP supermajority booted two African American members for protesting too loudly over gun violence.
Some of those “problematic things” were laid out Saturday by the Washington Post. It’s quite a list.
The comparison was prompted by the Republicans’ historic expulsion of Black state Reps. Justin Jones and Justin Pearson. Rep. Gloria Johnson, the only white member of the “Tennessee Three,” was narrowly allowed to keep her seat — a distinction she attributed to racism.
But the order of the day Saturday was to consider some of the Republican transgressions in recent years that somehow did not rise to the level of expulsion. It has only happened three times, the Post reported.
“In 1866, six lawmakers were expelled for blocking the ratification of the 14th Amendment. In 1980, a House member was expelled for seeking a bribe in exchange for scuttling a piece of legislation. And then in 2016, a representative was expelled amid state and federal investigations for sexual misconduct after a state attorney general report found that he had engaged in inappropriate sexual conduct with at least 22 women.”
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But more interesting were the recent examples of possible criminal acts that didn’t get treated as harshly as the so-called “disorderly behavior” by two Black men.
“In 2018, state Rep. David Byrd (R) faced accusations from three women who said he sexually assaulted them while they were minors on a basketball team that he coached. Byrd, who served in the state House until January, publicly denied the accusations and questioned the motives of the women,” the Post reported. “A recording of his conversation with one accuser surfaced," in which Byrd said: ‘I wish I had a do-over, because I promise you I would have corrected that and that would’ve never happened,’ and that he thinks about an unspecified incident ‘all the time.’"
“In 2019, Republican leadership killed a resolution to expel him from the chamber brought by Johnson, the member of the Tennessee Three who was not ousted. Johnson reintroduced the resolution but it failed in committee after Republicans canceled its hearing.
“You have to balance the will of the voters and overturning the will of the voters,” House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R) told a local news station in 2019 of the situation.
And there was this:
“In May 2019, the House Republican Caucus held a 45-24 no-confidence vote on then-Tennessee House Speaker Glen Casada (R) after text messages emerged that showed the chamber’s top leader encouraged or approved of his chief of staff making disparaging and sexual comments about women, including interns and a lobbyist.
Casada stepped down as speaker but remained a member of the legislature and was not expelled.”
“In August 2022, federal prosecutors charged Casada with money laundering, wire fraud, bribery and kickbacks concerning federal funds … Casada served the remainder of his term, which ended in January, and was not expelled from the legislature.”
Last month, state Rep. Paul Sherrell (R) asked if the state would consider adding "hanging by a tree" to its list of execution methods.
“I think it’s a very good idea, and I was just wondering about … could I put an amendment on that it would include hanging by a tree, also?” Sherrell asked during a committee hearing, according to Action News 5 in Memphis, Tenn. Despite a backlash, "Sherrell has not been reprimanded or censured for his remarks.”