NASHVILLE - Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee on Monday night called on embattled Republican House Speaker Glen Casada to resign, saying otherwise he would call lawmakers into special session to act after the House GOP Caucus' stunning approval hours earlier of a no-confidence resolution.
Lee's move came after a tumultuous day in which Republican Caucus members voted 45-24 for the nonbinding resolution.
Today House Republicans sent a clear message, and I’m prepared to call a special session if the Speaker doesn’t resign.— Gov. Bill Lee (@GovBillLee) May 21, 2019
Lee, also a Republican, said in a statement that House Republicans had "sent a clear message, and I'm prepared to call a special session if the speaker doesn't resign."
His statement followed Casada saying he was "disappointed" by the vote but showing little sign of giving up, vowing to "work the next few months to regain the confidence of my colleagues."
The caucus action and Lee's entry into the controversy capped a tumultuous three weeks for the 59-year-old Casada, who'd worked for years to become House speaker, finally claiming the prize he so desired just 4 1/2 months ago in January.
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Casada, of Williamson County, faced multiplying controversies that began with allegations his top aide had sought to frame a Nashville activist who'd been ordered to stay away from the speaker and revelations of leaked misogynistic and racist text messages three years ago from the same aide, who quit earlier this month in the ensuing uproar.
Casada responded jokingly or approvingly to three sexually oriented texts from aide Cade Cothren, who had boasted among other things about having sex with a woman in a restaurant's restroom.
After the no-confidence vote in the GOP Caucus' closed-door meeting in a Nashville hotel, a drumbeat quickly began from some top Republicans, with Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Scott Golden calling on Casada to step down.
Golden said the vote of no confidence "sends a clear message" and "it is time for the speaker to heed the advice of the majority of his fellow legislators and step down from his position of leadership."
House Majority Leader William Lamberth, R-Portland, also urged the speaker to resign and called on Lee to call lawmakers into special session to choose a new speaker before July.
Next came Lee and then came a joint statement from all top House Republican leaders, including GOP Caucus Chairman Cameron Sexton of Crossville, who had been a driving force behind fashioning a vote of no confidence and researching House Caucus and Robert's Rules of Order to determine whether it was feasible.
Other Casada controversies included the speaker's request of the House Ethics Committee to issue an ethics advisory opinion about his dealings with former aide Cothren, along with an unidentified man said to be a then-GOP political operative.
Outraged over a proposed draft ethics report he was presented, Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah, last week publicly called for Casada to resign, saying he saw it as an effort to "rig" the process and exonerate the speaker.
Carter went into the issue again during the 2 1/2-hour, closed-door GOP Caucus gathering, held in a large meeting room in the basement of a downtown Nashville boutique hotel, according to several attendees.
Later, Carter tweeted that "today the House Republican Caucus put the interests of Tennessee above politics and self-interest and I couldn't be more proud."
Some Republicans see Carter, Sexton and several other representatives as potentially interested in pursuing the speakership if and when Casada goes.
Rep. Patsy Hazlewood, R-Signal Mountain, one of the first Republicans to publicly call for the speaker to step down, said with her views "perfectly clear," there was no need to speak on Monday.
"It's a sad day. It's a sad day for our party, it's a sad day for the House and it's a sad day for Tennessee. But I think it's just a step that has to be taken," Hazlewood said by phone as she drove home from Nashville.
Hazlewood, who spoke before Lee waded in, said, "I don't see anything good ... for [Casada] by continuing to fight this. But that's only a decision he can make."
Earlier Monday, Lee told reporters that depending on House Republicans' actions, the possibility of his calling a special session for lawmakers to consider further action was "something to consider." But Lee also called it "premature."
"We'll have to wait and see what they do first," the governor said, referring to the later caucus meeting.
Lee said, "I think the Legislature will determine, they will signal whether or not they want a special session and we'll consider that sort of thing," he told reporters as he prepared to do volunteer work at a Nashville food bank.
Contact Andy Sher at firstname.lastname@example.org or 615-255-0550. Follow on Twitter @AndySher1.
Reaction to Tennessee House Republicans' approval of a no-confidence resolution calling on Speaker Glen Casada to resign:
"I'm disappointed in the results of today's caucus vote. However, I will work the next few months to regain the confidence of my colleagues so we can continue to build on the historic conservative accomplishments of this legislative session." - House Speaker Glen Casada, R-Franklin "Today House Republicans sent a clear message, and I'm prepared to call a special session if the speaker doesn't resign." - Gov. Bill Lee "As members of Republican leadership, we are calling on Speaker Casada to resign, and we appreciate Governor Lee's willingness to call a special session so we can elect a new Speaker of the House." - House Republican Caucus Chairman Cameron Sexton and six other GOP leaders "This was always an issue for the House to decide on its own. The House Republican Caucus has now spoken clearly and distinctly. I am hopeful Speaker Casada will put the legislature, the party and the state first and heed the call of his colleagues." - Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, the Republican Senate speaker and among the first to call for Casada to resign "Democrats call on Governor Lee to follow through on his statement saying he will call a special session in the event Casada does not resign so that House members can expel Casada and bring this unfortunate saga of scandals and revelations to an end. The citizens deserve to have a government that reflects their values, not an embarrassing spectacle." - House Democratic Caucus "It's a sad day. It's a sad day for our party, it's a sad day for the House and it's a sad day for Tennessee. But I think it's just a step that has to be taken." - Rep. Patsy Hazlewood, R-Signal Mountain "Today the House Republican Caucus put the interests of Tennessee above politics and self-interest and I couldn't be more proud." - Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah "A Resolution expressing 'no confidence' in Speaker Casada as TN House Speaker has passed. I stand w my colleagues In the condemnation of behavior displayed 3 yrs ago & am committed to move forward in passing Ethics Reforms along w conservative leg for Tennesseans." - Rep. Robin Smith, R-Hixson, in a tweet