President Biden on Thursday slammed Tennessee Republicans after the state House voted to expel two Democratic lawmakers who participated in a raucous protest at the state Capitol.
In an extraordinary action, the GOP-controlled body voted to expel Democratic Reps. Justin Jones and Justin Pearson for “disorderly behavior” after they stormed the Capitol building with anti-gun protesters following the shooting at a Nashville, Tennessee, private Christian school that left three staff members and three 9-year-old children dead. A third Democrat, Rep. Gloria Johnson, came within one vote of also being expelled.
While state legislatures hold the power to expel members, such drastic punishment is typically reserved for serious misconduct. President Biden condemned Republican lawmakers for wielding their power against lawmakers who he said were standing in solidarity with 7,000 students and families who had marched on the state capitol to demand gun control legislation.
“Today’s expulsion of lawmakers who engaged in peaceful protest is shocking, undemocratic, and without precedent,” Biden said. “Rather than debating the merits of the issue, these Republican lawmakers have chosen to punish, silence, and expel duly-elected representatives of the people of Tennessee.”
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The president concluded his statement by calling on federal and state lawmakers “to act on commonsense gun safety reforms,” including a ban on “assault weapons with high capacity magazines,” universal background checks, making gun manufacturers liable for mass shootings and more.
Last week, the trio of Democratic lawmakers chanted back and forth from the chamber floor with gun-control supporters packed in the gallery.
Jones had brought a megaphone onto the House floor and led chants of “no justice, no peace.”
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In retaliation, the Republican majority stripped the three Democrats of their committee assignments before voting to expel them.
Republicans defended their actions as necessary to avoid setting a precedent that lawmakers’ disruptions of House proceedings through protest would be tolerated.
“I want to make sure everybody knows this has nothing to do about the protest outside the House chamber or the protests outside the Capitol,” Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton told Fox News’ Bill Hemmer on Wednesday, ahead of the vote.
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“This is about these three members’ actions on the House floor, how they shut us down, and how they led protests from the House chamber to those [people] in the balcony,” he continued.
The expelled Democrats accused GOP lawmakers of attacking democracy.
“We are losing our democracy. This is not normal. This is not OK,” Pearson told reporters. The three “broke a House rule because we’re fighting for kids who are dying from gun violence and people in our communities who want to see an end to the proliferation of weaponry in our communities. And that leads to our expulsion? This is not democracy.”
Fox News’ Bradford Betz and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
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