House Speaker Dade Phelan has been officially censured by the Republican Party of Texas for “lack of fidelity to Republican principles and priorities.”
The GOP announced its decision Saturday after a 55-4 vote by the state Republican Executive Committee. The resolution said Phelan violated GOP principles by promoting the impeachment of Attorney General Ken Paxton, appointing Democratic chairs to House committees and failing to support bills on “educational freedom” and border security.
Phelan became a target after pushing for Paxton’s impeachment. He joined two-thirds of the Republican members and nearly all the Democrats in sending the impeachment to the Senate for trial. After Paxton was acquitted, he began campaigning against those who voted to impeach him, including Phelan.
Paxton has endorsed Phelan’s primary election opponent, GOP activist David Covey.
“Dade has lost his way, and is more beholden to the Democrats who elected him speaker than the people who elect him to fight for them,” said Paxton in an Ad he cut for Covey.
Phelan also became a target of Republican ire after he appointed a handful of Democratic members to chair House committees, even though bipartisan committee chairmanships are a custom in the Texas House followed by speakers of both parties.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and former President Donald Trump have also called Phelan a “RINO” (Republican In Name Only).
“The insurgent wing of the Republican Party hasn’t met a speaker they like,” Brandon Rottinghaus, a University of Houston political science professor, told the Austin American-Statesman. “Anyone in leadership roles for the GOP in the House has a target on their back and get the RINO tag.”
A spokeswoman for Phelan said that the SREC and the far-right conservatives are out of step with everyday Republicans.
“This is the same organization that rolled out the red carpet for a group of Neo-Nazis, refused to disassociate from anti-Semitic groups and balked at formally condemning a known sexual predator before he was ousted from the Texas House,” said Cait Meisenheimer, a top communication’s aide to the speaker. “The SREC has lost its moral authority and is no longer representative of the views of the Party as a whole.”
The committee has censured the U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzales for supporting a bipartisan gun-safety measure after the Uvalde mass shooting, state Rep. Andrew Murr for leading the House’s impeachment of Paxton and former House Speaker Joe Straus who helped kill a Senate-passed bill that sought to limit public bathroom options for transgender people.