Why Tennessee GOP’s effort to oust 3 Dem lawmakers is so unusual

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“It will echo across the country. I think it will have a chilling effect on all states where there’s supermajorities or very red states,” Rep. Gloria Johnson, one of the Democrats under threat of expulsion, said in a phone interview Tuesday. “This is chipping away at our democracy, there’s no question, because everybody’s going to wonder, ‘am I next?’”

The ACLU in Tennessee also issued a warning the effort “undermines Democracy.”

“Expulsion is an extreme measure that is used very infrequently in our state and our country because it strips voters of representation by the people they elected,” Kathy Sinback, the executive director of the ACLU in Tennessee, said in a statement.

State legislatures often go decades without taking such an action against members.

The dustup began last week, when hundreds of protestors gathered at the capitol in Nashville to urge lawmakers to pass gun safety measures in the aftermath of a shooting at a local school that left three adults and three children dead.

Amid the protests that leaked into the building, Reps. Gloria Johnson, Justin Jones and Justin Pearson led chants on the House floor in which they called on their colleagues to pass new gun laws. The lawmakers were aided by a bullhorn.

Their stunt enraged Republicans, who promptly introduced resolutions calling for their removal, sparking further chaos on the House floor.

Now, Republican leaders — who likened those actions to an “insurrection” — will vote Thursday on whether the members should be allowed to continue serving in the House or be removed from office. The Democrats have already been stripped of their committee assignments.

Resolutions filed against the three declared that they had participated in “disorderly behavior” and “did knowingly and intentionally bring disorder and dishonor to the House of Representatives.”

Critics of the move to evict the members argued that Republicans have failed in the past to remove their members of their own party who acted egregiously, such as a former representative who was accused of sexually assaulting teenagers when he was a basketball coach.

“It’s morally insane that a week after a mass shooting took six lives in our community, House Republicans only response is to expel us for standing with our constituents to call for gun control,” Jones tweeted Tuesday afternoon. “What’s happening in Tennessee is a clear danger to democracy all across this nation.”

The group of Democrats faces tough odds surviving the vote: Both chambers of the Tennessee legislature are controlled by a Republican supermajority. Special elections will be held if the resolutions pass.

Johnson, a former teacher who survived a school shooting that left one student dead, said she plans to bring an attorney to Thursday’s vote and “defend herself.”

“I’m happy to show up and make my case heard, because I will always lift up the voices of the people in my district who want to see gun sense legislation,” Johnson said.

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( With inputs from : )

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