AUSTIN (Nexstar) — After two days of delays and private deliberation, the Texas Senate voted Wednesday night to approve rules for the upcoming impeachment trial of suspended Attorney General Ken Paxton.
The trial is scheduled to begin on September 5. Senators approved a separate resolution ordering Paxton to appear before the Senate by 9:00 a.m. on that date.
One highly-anticipated decision was whether Paxton’s wife, State Sen. Angela Paxton, would be required to recuse herself. That issue was addressed in the final rule senators approved,
Rule 31, stating that as Ken Paxton’s spouse, Sen. Paxton “shall not be eligible to vote on any matter, motion, or question, or participate in closed sessions or deliberations.”
However, the rule also states that Sen. Paxton “shall be seated in the court of impeachment.” It also said she “shall be considered present and eligible only for the purpose of calculating the number of votes required for any and all matters, motions, and questions under these rules.”
That could be significant, since her presence would mean 31 senators would be on the court. A two-thirds vote is required to remove Ken Paxton permanently from office. With Sen. Paxton seated in the court, even as a non-voting member, the two-thirds threshold is 21 votes.
The recommendations were drafted by a seven-member Senate committee that was appointed at the end of the regular legislation session in May. Back then, the upper chamber voted to allow the panel to work as a “caucus of the whole” — meaning, they are about to conduct business in private. The seven senators had broad power in forming how the Senate trial will operate, which could significantly impact Paxton’s prospects of keeping his position in an impending trial.
State senators will serve as a jury and will ultimately vote whether to convict or acquit Paxton, who was immediately suspended after the House overwhelming voted to impeach him 121-23 at the end of May. No aspect of the trial will include criminal charges; senators’ vote will determine whether or not Paxton must be permanently removed from office.
The allegations against Paxton include bribery, abuse of office, and obstruction. Throughout his time in office, the Republican has faced controversies and criminal charges hanging over his tenure.
For two days, the Texas Senate has been privately deliberating its proposed rules for the upcoming impeachment trial of suspended Attorney General Ken Paxton, but hasn’t taken public action despite its previous Tuesday deadline.
Since Tuesday morning, a few senators have come to the floor for its scheduled floor meeting — only to gavel in momentarily before another member makes a motion to recess, with hours-long recesses in-between. It wasn’t until Wednesday that members of the upper chamber publicly acknowledged that their delayed Senate floor action is due to debate over rules behind closed doors.
“As the Senate is working hard on rules, I move that we recess until 1 p.m. today” said Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, earlier Wednesday morning. When 1 p.m. rolled around, the chamber extended the recess to the afternoon. They repeated the process two more times before reconvening for the vote shortly after 8 p.m.
After the vote, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick read aloud a rule preventing any of the senators from discussing the case or advocating a position on the case.
“No members of the court staff have members of the court presiding officer of the court, legal counsel the presiding officer shall discuss or comment on any matter relating to the merits of the proceedings before the court of impeachment…” Patrick read, quoting Rule 10 to the senators.
Patrick closed his remarks with praise for the senators and their work.
“I’ve never been more proud of the members on this floor and how you came together on the set of rules, and how seriously, you’re taking your responsibilities,” Patrick said.
“I’m proud of all of you and the citizens of Texas can count on the Senate of Texas to have a fair and just trial,” he concluded.