The elected attorney general of Texas was apparently removed from the Texas House by the sergeant at arms after being invited to the chambers by several representatives.
During a marathon session in the Texas House, Rep. Steve Toth (R-Woodlands) shared a video claiming that Attorney General Ken Paxton had been wrongfully removed from the House chambers after Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) issued the order.
“It is 8:30 at night, and I got to give you an update,” Toth told his supporters through a social media video, “because, unfortunately, Dade Phelan is doubling down on stupid.”
Dade Phelan had the Sergeant at Arms remove our Attorney General @KenPaxtonTX from House Chambers. Paxton is the one who will defend the laws we pass and Dade’s doubling down on his failed impeachment madness. #TexLege pic.twitter.com/qWUvZ0YMX0
— Steve Toth (@Toth_4_Texas) October 26, 2023
“We had Ken Paxton over in the House today to say hello, to look at legislation that we’re moving through the Texas House, and Dade Phelan actually sent the sergeant at arms to kick the attorney general out of the Texas House,” the representative explained.
“I can’t get my arms around how stupid these guys are becoming,” Toth continued.
In the accompanying caption, he further noted, “Paxton is the one who will defend the laws we pass and Dade’s doubling down on his failed impeachment madness.”
Phelan was one of the major forces behind the impeachment of Paxton earlier this year. In the aftermath of his acquittal by the Senate, Paxton has led the calls for Phelan to step down as speaker.
Several other members of the House confirmed that Phelan had ordered Paxton removed.
In response to Toth’s claims, Cait Wittman, the spokeswoman for Speaker Phelan, posted a picture of the House rules that Toth had voted to pass earlier this year.
In the section regarding who has privileges on the House floor, the rules allow only House members and select staff, Senate members and select staff, the governor and select staff, the lieutenant governor, the secretary of state, accredited media, certain election contestants, and family members of members “on such special occasions as may be determined.”
The attorney general is not specifically listed as someone who has privileges to be on the House floor.
Rep. Toth, however, retorted, “Your boss booted him from back chambers. Not the House Floor.”
“Ken was an invited guest of House members,” he added. “Cait, who do you think will defend our bills when Democrats bring a lawsuit to block it? That’s right, Ken Paxton.”
“At some point you need to get over this and move on,” Toth concluded.
Others, however, supported Phelan’s removal of Paxton.
Chad Wilbanks, a former executive director of the Texas GOP, responded to Toth’s video, saying, “For the record, this elected official voted in favor of the admittance rules to the Texas House floor, and now he gaslights about some unfairness.”
“And yet, some conservatives and independents wonder why the GOP is dysfunctional,” he added, referring to the ongoing tension within the state Republican party in the aftermath of the impeachment trial.
The current chairman of the state party, Matt Rinaldi, denounced the removal of Paxton, adding, “This was a petty, classless move. The only way to get treated with respect in Dade Phelan’s Texas House is if you’re a Democrat or you act.”
Rinaldi and Phelan have long been at odds over the direction of the party, continually sparring and demanding each other’s resignations.
Yet other observers noted that former House members are generally allowed to be outside the rails in the chamber without issue, and Paxton served as a representative from 2003 to 2013 before being elected to the Senate.