Expelled TN Democrat to Be Reinstated, GOP Speaker Appears to Fold

AP Photo/George Walker IV

Justin Jones, one of the so-called “Tennessee Three” who ended up expelled may be back on the job in no time. According to a new report, Jones appears to have secured the votes from Nashville’s council to be reappointed to the position he was removed from.

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The Democrat was booted from office after he and two others helped lead an insurrection that breached the Tennessee capitol building. Jones then used a bullhorn to lead chants on the chamber floor in solidarity with the mob. Republicans came together and voted to expel him on Thursday.

Exiled Tennessee state Rep. Justin Jones is expected to be reinstated Monday after a Republican supermajority booted him from the state Legislature last week for participating in a gun safety protest inside the chamber.

The Nashville Metro Council is voting Monday afternoon to temporarily fill the seat before a special election. It’s anticipated that Jones, 27, will earn enough votes from council members to regain his former seat. The Black freshman lawmaker is planning to then lead a march to the statehouse and return to work just as the Legislature gavels in for an evening session.

When I first saw that news it didn’t surprise me. I knew that the local councils would have the power to appoint a replacement prior to any special election (a special election is required if there are at least 12 months left on someone’s term). These deep blue areas reappointing the ousted lawmakers was always a foregone conclusion.

Still, didn’t expect the House Speaker, a Republican, to fold so quickly. According to the Washington Examiner, Jones and presumably Justin Pearson, the other expelled Democrat, will be seated.

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Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton will seat the two black Democratic lawmakers who were forced out last week over their protests following a mass school shooting if the county commissions vote them back in, a spokesperson for Sexton said Monday.

“The two governing bodies will make the decision as to who they want to appoint to these seats,” the spokesperson told WKRN. “Those two individuals will be seated as representatives as the constitution requires.”

You have to wonder what the point of expulsion is in Tennessee if the expelled members can simply be reinstated almost immediately. I would assume the plain letter of the law intended for there to be a real successor, not a reappointment, otherwise, there would be no point in having the ability to expel in the first place. Given that, the GOP shouldn’t just shrug their shoulders at this. They should refuse to seat Jones and take legal action if necessary. As of now, the Speaker is indicating that won’t happen, though.

With that said, if there is truly nothing else the GOP can do here legally and this ended up being another type of censure, I’m still fine with that. One of the things Republican voters have complained about for years is the unwillingness of their elected representatives to even try to do what is right. Sometimes you engage in battle and you end up in a stalemate, which may happen here, but I’d rather see Republicans engage than make excuses about why they must sit on their hands and do nothing. In sports, you miss every shot you refuse to take. It’s no different in politics.

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Presumably, no matter what happens, Jones and Pearson will remain completely sidelined inside the legislature. That means nothing they propose will come up for a vote and they will remain banned from all committee assignments. If that’s the kind of representation their respective cities want, then so be it.

Regardless, I’d like to see if the GOP caucus and leadership in Tennessee have a few more tricks up their sleeves. I doubt this story is over.

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