REPLAY: Tennessee House Republicans take up resolution to expel State Rep. Gloria Johnson

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Republicans in the Tennessee House of Representatives are planning to expel three Democrats who demonstrated March 30 in the House chamber for action to control gun violence.

Reps. Gloria Johnson of Knoxville, Justin Jones of Nashville and Justin Pearson of Memphis stood in the well of the House chamber, temporarily disrupting proceedings as they demanded a legislative solution to gun violence three days after the Covenant School shooting in Nashville. A shooter killed three 9-year-olds and three adults before being shot and killed by police on March 27.

The House will vote on Thursday, April 6. Join us live to watch the proceedings. This page will be updated with the stream below.

Republicans were incensed by the disruption, and quickly moved to punish Johnson, Jones and Pearson. Ultimately they approved resolutions seeking to expel the three for violating House decorum rules.

When will the House decide whether to expel them?

The resolutions to expel already have been passed, and Republicans show no signs of relenting. On April 5, Johnson tweeted that the legislature's human resources chief and the House ethics lawyer upped the pressure by telling her she will lose her health benefits if she is expelled, but will keep them if she resigns.

The House begins its session at 10 a.m. ET April 6, and will have 29 bills to consider before turning to the expulsion. Legislators could move to suspend the rules and take up the expulsion proceedings first.

Johnson, Jones and Pearson have the right to defend themselves before a vote. Republicans hold a supermajority with 75 of the chamber's 99 seats. That means they are assured of securing the two-thirds majority they need – 66 votes – if they stick together, and there's been no sign they won't remain united.

Reps. Justin Pearson, D-Memphis, Gloria Johnson, D-Knoxville, and Justin Jones, D-Nashville, walk through a crowd of supporters at the Tennessee state Capitol in Nashville, Tenn., on Thursday, April 6, 2023. The House is expected to vote on expelling the three Democratic representatives following their participation in a gun control protest at the Capitol last week.

What happens if the Democrats are expelled?

They will no longer be members of the House. Their districts will be unrepresented until replacements are selected. Because all three were just elected or reelected in November, their successors will be chosen by the county commissions in their respective districts.

That means the Knox County Commission, which has a 9-2 Republican supermajority of its own, would choose Johnson's successor. State Republicans previously tried to gerrymander Johnson out of the House, but she moved into the newly created 90th District and beat GOP candidate David "Pozy" Poczobut in a landslide.

The earliest the Knox County Commission could replace Johnson would be April 17.

It's also possible, perhaps likely, the Metropolitan Council that governs Nashville and the Shelby County Commission that includes Memphis could simply reappoint Jones and Pearson, respectively.

What's at stake?

Legislatively, nothing really. With a supermajority already, the best Republicans could hope to achieve is an even larger advantage in the House they already dominate.

Politically, that's to be seen.

Republicans have been irritated by Johnson for years, and have retaliated against her before, including moving her office to a tiny conference room with no windows. Johnson moved her desk into the hallway to protest.

The House has never expelled members for such minor offenses before, and the move to do this time so has attracted national attention. The Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators called the action unconstitutional and "morally bankrupt." Jones and Pearson are Black; Johnson is white.

Thousands have demonstrated at the state Capitol in Nashville in favor of gun control, and groups across the state have pledged to keep the protests going.

There's also the danger to Republicans of appearing anti-democratic – small "d" democratic – by subverting the will of voters, especially in the districts that have overwhelmingly elected the three.

The fallout likely won't be clear until the next election cycle.

Does this mean the three Democrats' political careers are finished?

Certainly not.

Johnson is 60 years old, Jones is 27 and Pearson is 28.

Johnson, Jones and Pearson all won their most recent House elections in landslides: Johnson with nearly 58% of the vote; Jones with 100% (that's not a typo); and Pearson with nearly 98% (that's not a typo, either).

All three are eligible to be elected or appointed again, and can't be expelled for the same offense if they are reelected or reappointed.

The House Republicans could maneuver to stop them from taking the oath of office if that happens, but the Democrats would surely try to seek a court order to be seated.

This article originally appeared on Knoxville News Sentinel: What to know about the Republican vote to expel three House Democrats