The Republican Party in Texas is facing a crisis of leadership and unity after a shocking accusation by the state’s attorney general, Ken Paxton, against the speaker of the House, Dade Phelan.
Paxton, who is under indictment for securities fraud and facing an investigation by a House committee for corruption allegations, claimed that Phelan was drunk while presiding over the House session on Friday and called for his resignation.
Phelan, who has been praised by some moderate Republicans and Democrats for his bipartisan approach to governing, did not respond directly to Paxton’s accusation, but his allies dismissed it as a desperate attempt to distract from his own legal troubles.
What sparked the feud between Paxton and Phelan?
The feud between Paxton and Phelan has been simmering for months, as they represent different factions of the Republican Party in Texas.
Paxton is a staunch ally of former President Donald Trump and a leader of the far-right wing of the party, which advocates for more restrictive voting laws, anti-abortion measures, and border security.
Phelan is a more pragmatic and moderate Republican, who has worked with Democrats on issues such as public education, health care, and criminal justice reform.
The tension between them escalated on Tuesday, when Paxton sent a letter to the House Committee on General Investigating, asking them to look into possible violations by Phelan and other House members during the session on Friday.
The committee was already scheduled to meet on Wednesday to discuss Paxton’s request for $3.3 million in state funds to settle corruption allegations brought against him by his former top aides, who accused him of abusing his office to help a wealthy donor.
Paxton’s letter was based on a video clip that circulated online, showing Phelan slurring his words at one point during the session. Paxton claimed that Phelan was “in a state of apparent debilitating intoxication” and unfit to lead the House.
How did other Republicans react to Paxton’s accusation?
Paxton’s accusation against Phelan was met with disbelief and outrage by many Republicans in the House, who defended Phelan’s performance and integrity.
Representative Jeff Leach, a Republican from Plano who chairs the General Investigating Committee, called Paxton’s letter “a pathetic political stunt” and said he would not allow it to derail the committee’s work.
Representative Chris Paddie, a Republican from Marshall who chairs the State Affairs Committee, said he was “appalled” by Paxton’s accusation and praised Phelan as “a man of honor and character.”
Representative Lyle Larson, a Republican from San Antonio who is a vocal critic of Paxton, said Paxton was “trying to deflect attention from his own legal problems” and called him “a cancer on our party.”
What are the implications of the G.O.P. split in Texas?
The G.O.P. split in Texas reflects a broader divide within the party at the national level, as it grapples with its identity and direction after Trump’s presidency.
Some Republicans, like Paxton, have embraced Trump’s style and agenda, while others, like Phelan, have sought to distance themselves from Trump and appeal to a more diverse and moderate electorate.
The split could have significant consequences for the future of Texas politics, as the state undergoes rapid demographic and cultural changes that could challenge the Republican dominance that has lasted for decades.
Some analysts have predicted that Texas could become a battleground state in future elections, as more young people, minorities, and suburban voters lean toward the Democratic Party.
The G.O.P. split could also affect the outcome of several important issues that are still pending in the current legislative session, such as redistricting, voting rights, abortion access, gun rights, and energy policy.
The G.O.P. split in Texas breaks wide open with drunkenness accusation is a stunning example of how internal dissent and personal animosity can undermine political unity and effectiveness.
It also exposes the challenges that Republicans face in Texas and across the country as they try to balance their loyalty to Trump with their appeal to a changing electorate.
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