Texas House Democrat Joe Moody has been relieved of his duties as speaker pro tempore in a disciplinary act announced by Speaker Dade Phelan, a Republican, as a consequence of Moody’s participation in a Democrat walk-out that broke quorum and put a freeze on a GOP election reform bill.
Phelan, in a memo on Thursday, announced the removal of Moody from his position as speaker pro tempore, saying the change was effective immediately. The move represents the first major disciplinary action taken against one of the dozens of Texas House Democrats who left the state last week to break quorum and halt deliberations on a voting bill that Republicans say is needed to shore up election integrity but that Democrats argue amounts to voter suppression.
In the statement, Phelan cited House Rule 1, Section 10, which reads (pdf): “The speaker shall have the right to name any member to perform the duties of the chair related to presiding over the deliberations of the house and may name a member to serve as speaker pro tempore by delivering a written order to the chief clerk and a copy to the journal clerk.”
Moody responded to the announcement in a post on Twitter, saying: “The most important titles in my life will never change: Dad, Husband, El Pasoan. Nothing political has ever even cracked the top three, so nothing has changed about who I am or what my values are.”
The most important titles in my life will never change: Dad, Husband, El Pasoan. Nothing political has ever even cracked the top three, so nothing has changed about who I am or what my values are. #txlege https://t.co/RQ8mozCdwT
— Joe Moody (@moodyforelpaso) July 15, 2021
Texas GOP Chair Matt Rinaldi praised Phelan’s decision, telling The Texan that, “Speaker Phelan’s decision to remove fleeing Democrat Joe Moody from the second-ranking leadership position in the House was the right move and we applaud it.”
“We hope the Speaker will continue to use every tool at his disposal to secure the attendance of absent members, including but not limited to removing all Democrat committee chairs breaking quorum, so that our important GOP priorities can be passed.”
Rep. Chris Turner, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, took to social media to denounce Phelan’s decision.
“The smartest decision Dade Phelan has made as speaker was to appoint Joe Moody Speaker Pro Tem,” he said. “Joe works tirelessly to help lead the House and is respected by [Democrat] & [Republican] members. That’s why the Speaker’s decision to remove Joe is so short-sighted and so dumb.”
Phelan has also called for those Democrats who broke quorum to give back their $221 per diem.
In a move underscoring the political brinkmanship in the state, Texas Democrats confirmed Monday they flew via a chartered plane to the District of Columbia after walking out on Republicans’ proposed election overhaul bill. Republicans say the bill is needed to secure the state’s elections and restore Texans’ confidence in their elections, while Democrats have said it would unfairly target minority groups and is tantamount to voter suppression.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said last week that Democrat state legislators who left a special session to protest the voting overhaul bill “will be arrested” when they return from Washington. The Democrats have vowed to stay in Washington for the duration of the special session, which was called by Abbott to ensure a vote on issues including voter integrity, border security, censorship, and the spread of critical race theory in schools.
The Democrat Caucus did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Jack Phillips and Masooma Haq contributed to this report.