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In first test, Texas Senators refuse to dismiss impeachment charges against Ken Paxton

By Patrick Svitek and Zach Despart, The Texas Tribune

In first test, Texas Senators refuse to dismiss impeachment charges against Ken Paxton” was first published by The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

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The Texas Senate kicked off its impeachment trial of suspended Attorney General Ken Paxton on Tuesday with a preliminary series of votes rejecting Paxton’s efforts to dismiss the case pretrial.

The Senate denied Paxton’s first two motions by votes of 24-6 and 22-8.

The first motion asked the Senate to throw out all of the articles of impeachment for lack of evidence. Twelve Republicans joined all Senate Democrats in the vote to essentially move forward with a trial.

The 12 Republicans were Sens. Brian Birdwell of Granbury, Pete Flores of Pleasanton, Kelly Hancock of North Richland Hills, Joan Huffman of Houston, Bryan Hughes of Mineola, Phil King of Weatherford, Mayes Middleton of Galveston, Robert Nichols of Jacksonville, Charles Perry of Lubbock, Charles Schwertner of Georgetown, Kevin Sparks of Midland and Drew Springer of Muenster.

The second motion asked senators to exclude evidence from before Paxton’s current term. That motion struck at the heart of one of Paxton’s main arguments — that he cannot be impeached for any actions he allegedly took before he was reelected last year.

The House impeached Paxton in May, alleging a yearslong pattern of lawbreaking and misconduct. He was immediately suspended from his job and the Senate trial, which started at 9 a.m. Tuesday, will determine whether he is permanently removed from office.

There were two dozen pretrial motions. A simple majority is required to approve any pretrial motions, and Paxton’s team challenged all articles of impeachment both individually and altogether. Under trial rules, the presiding officer, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick can rule on them unilaterally but has to put them to a Senate vote if they would lead to dismissal of any articles. A simply majority vote is required for those motions.

If the Senate proceeds to a trial, a two-thirds vote is required to convict Paxton. That means that if all 12 Democrats vote to convict, half the remaining 18 Republican with a vote have to join them. Paxton’s wife, Sen. Angela Paxton, is disqualified from voting but allowed to attend the trial.

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