'You hung us out to dry': Leaked audio reveals hot tempers in GOP caucus after firing vote

Anger erupted in the Republican House last week after a handful of members voted against firing Rep. Gloria Johnson.

Republican leadership was working this week to show a united front and move forward from a historic double impeachment vote that thrust Democrats into the national spotlight and drew national criticism of Tennessee House Republicans.

But a leaked vote from a House GOP caucus meeting on Monday — just days after Republicans voted to expel representatives. Justin Jones, D-Nashville, and Justin Pearson, D-Memphis, but Johnson, D-Knoxville, broke the House with a message of unity. When the GOP wants to move forward, it pushes.

Expulsion politics: How the Republicans scored a historic victory for the Democrats

On the tape, top GOP leaders voiced their frustration, accusing Reps. Jody Barrett, R-Dixon, and Brian Terry, R-Murfreesboro, of violating caucus members and making allegations against Johnson’s firing. dry”

“God, we’re called — you brought racism because you’re not with us,” Rep. Jason Zachary, R-Knoxville, can be heard on the recording. “I don’t want to hear why it happened. Not presenting the evidence as a lawyer—I need to know why you changed your vote at the last minute.”

Rep. Gloria Johnson, D-Knoxville, speaks before voting to expel her from the House of Representatives, Thursday, April 6, 2023, at the Tennessee State Capitol in Nashville.  One voice.

Rep. Gloria Johnson, D-Knoxville, speaks before voting to expel her from the House of Representatives, Thursday, April 6, 2023, at the Tennessee State Capitol in Nashville. One voice.

The audio has been edited and does not include other caucus members who spoke during the meeting.

It was edited audio. Posted first At the liberal advocacy site The Tennessee Holler. The Tennessean separately confirmed that the vote came from a closed caucus meeting on Monday, April 10.

In a statement to The Tennessean, Zachary said, “The audio released from our private meeting is a snippet and does not contain our entire conversation.

“As for my comments, it’s clear from the audio that my intention is to clear the air and vent the frustration our members felt after Thursday’s expulsion vote,” he said. “The House Republican Caucus will not be distracted by the events of the past few weeks. We will continue to fulfill the mission the voters in Tennessee gave us by implementing the sound conservative policies that have made Tennessee the best state to live in the nation. Work and raise a family.”

Audio makes it clear that Republican leadership is locked in votes from the caucus to expel all three Democrats last Thursday — although House Majority Leader William Lambert, R-Portland, said shortly before the vote that he had not given his opinion.

House Majority Whip Johnny Garrett, R-Goodlettsville, could be heard saying in his voice that Barrett was “surprised as if that would make a difference” at Johnson’s request to ask questions during the hearing.

“We’ve done jurors before. This was obviously not an experiment – but I know your every vote counts. I knew we didn’t have to convince you all,” Garrett says in a voiceover. “I was shocked when Gloria came up to me two minutes before the final closing and said she didn’t want to do this.”

“It’s going to take some time for all of us to digest your reasoning,” Garrett added in a voiceover.

Garrett did not respond to an emailed request for comment or a message left with his office.

In the audio, Barrett defended his vote, saying leadership could not substantiate the claims against Johnson as outlined in the dismissal decision.

“I know what she did. I know she broke the rules. “I know she should be fired, but we have to do it right, and that wasn’t right,” Barrett argued vocally. “I went back to my desk. I sat there and had an internal debate about what to do. I’m worried that the bell will ring, that I’m going to vote yes on a decision that I know is wrong.

Barrett said they went to Garrett to ask for permission to go off-script and ask questions to help push the Republican case, but House Speaker Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville, never called him before the vote.

Barrett’s comments on the vote are consistent with a lengthy statement he issued last week explaining his vote.

Reached specifically for comment on the caucus meeting audio, Barrett referred the Tennessean to a spokesman for the House GOP caucus.

Often on the ballot, intense pressure from GOP leadership is evident along party lines.

“You’ve got to do the right thing – even if you think it might be wrong – you’ve got to do the right thing,” says Rep. Scott Sepicki, R-Culleoka. You have to protect this horrible republic here in Tennessee, or you know what, we all go to hell.

Sepiki did not respond to a text message regarding the audio.

Asked for comment, the House GOP caucus quoted Tennessean GOP leadership as saying at their weekly news conference earlier Thursday that they were focused on passing the state budget and moving forward.

“None of our members regret the decision to fire, and we will do it again if this kind of behavior occurs on this floor,” Lambert said. “In this special room, people have to listen to each other, respond to each other and follow the rules so that every voice can be heard.”

Melissa Brown contributed.

Reach Vivian Jones at [email protected].

This article originally appeared in the Nashville Tennessean: Leaked Tennessee GOP caucus audio reveals fresh anger after firing

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