Apr 12, 2023 - Podcasts

What’s next for the Tennessee lawmakers expelled from office

Four days after being expelled by the GOP-led Tennessee State House, Democratic Representative Justin Jones was reinstated on Monday. Jones was one of two Black Democratic lawmakers expelled for participating in a gun-control protest following The Covenant School shooting. What happens now?

  • Plus, why the UK economy is projected to be worse than Russia’s.
  • And, how that’s even affecting - British fish and chips.

Guests: Axios' Adam Tamburin and Felix Salmon.

Credits: Axios Today is produced by Niala Boodhoo, Lydia McMullen-Laird, Fonda Mwangi and Alex Sugiura. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

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Transcript

NIALA: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today!

It’s Wednesday, April 12th.

I’m Niala Boodhoo.

Here’s what we’re covering today: why the U.K. economy is projected to be worse than Russia’s. Plus, how that’s even affecting - British fish and chips. But first, what’s next for the Tennessee lawmakers expelled from office. That’s our One Big Thing.

What’s next for the Tennessee lawmakers expelled from office

NIALA: Four days after being expelled by the GOP-led Tennessee State House, Democratic Representative Justin Jones was reinstated. Nashville's Metro Council voted unanimously to send him back to his old seat on Monday. Jones was one of two black Democratic lawmakers expelled for participating in a gun-control protest following The Covenant School shooting.

Axios’ Adam Tamburin is joining us from Nashville with the big picture. Hey, Adam.

ADAM TAMBURIN: Hi. Thank you for having me.

NIALA: Adam. This expulsion has made national headlines and gotten attention from the White House and civil rights groups. First, I need to ask you, how common are expulsions from the Tennessee General Assembly?

ADAM: They're very, very rare and they usually follow things like a serious criminal investigation or allegation convictions, or a serious breach of ethical rules. So, for an expulsion to take place under circumstances like this, where it's, we're talking about decorum rules being violated is really unprecedented.

NIALA: Democratic Representative Justin Pearson was also expelled. His seat represents part of Memphis.

ADAM: Yes, what we're hearing is that the commission and Shelby County will be meeting today to discuss that.

NIALA: And I should mention there's a third lawmaker Representative Gloria Johnson, who represents Knoxville. Also a Democrat, also participated in the protest, her vote to get expelled, failed by one vote. What has she been saying about that?

ADAM: Well, outside of the chamber, a reporter asked her, why do you think you weren't expelled when your colleagues were? And she said, I think you can look at the color of our skin. Johnson is white, Pearson and Jones are Black. And there's been a lot of attention to the fact that the two Black lawmakers were expelled and the one white lawmaker survived expulsion.

NIALA: Adam, the appointment for Representative Jones is temporary. What happens next?

ADAM: There will be a special election called, to fill the remainder of his term. But there's nothing in the law that would prevent him from running. We expect him to run, and it's hard for me to imagine anyone else challenging him, much less, winning against him

NIALA: Adam. What are you hearing about what effect this may have on other state legislatures?

ADAM: Well, I think the concern is that it sets a precedent for lowering the bar for expulsions. Jones, Representative Pearson, Representative Johnson got up from their desks on the House floor and marched up to the podium and led the crowd that was in the gallery in chants for gun reforms. They had a couple bullhorns and it briefly interrupted the House business.

I think a lot of people expected Jones and his colleagues to be punished for what they did but a lot of people were surprised by how far the Republican super majority went, in pushing for an expulsion. And so the open question that's kind of out there for us and for other states is, you know, does this make a similar punishment more palatable in the future?

NIALA: Adam, what's it like to have all this national attention on your hometown?

ADAM: It's been a really trying time and I think it's something that you're hearing friends bring up when you run into somebody at the grocery store. People are just tired. People are sad. I mean, it's hard to believe The Covenant School shooting is only about two weeks ago, and so I think there's a lot of grief. That the community still has to process. And so for that to be layered on top of this very intense political debate, has just been, I think exhausting for the city.

NIALA: Adam Tamburin is one of Axios’ Nashville reporters. Thanks, Adam.

ADAM: Thank you so much.

NIALA: In a moment, how Brexit continues to decimate the British economy, years later.

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Why the U.K. economy is projected to be worse than Russia’s

NIALA: Welcome back to Axios Today! I’m Niala Boodhoo.

NIALA: I have been in the U.K. for the past few days. I'm here all week, taking part in the Skoll World Forum at Oxford and Brexit hit home for me for the first time since the UK left the EU. I visited France from the U.K., which meant going through two sets of customs and border controls before getting on a train from London to Paris.

The signs of Brexit are still all over the U.K. economy, even though it's been three years since the official split. In fact, the IMF just said, the U.K. economy will be one of the worst performing economies this year. Joining us with the post- Brexit economic big picture is Axios’ Chief Financial correspondent, Felix Salmon. Hi Felix.

FELIX: Hi, Niala. I'm glad that it's you in the U.K. and not me. I am happily ensconced in New York and the United States, which has a much healthier economy than that miserable island off the coast of Europe.

NIALA: Your miserable island off the coast of Europe.

FELIX: The miserable island off the coast of Europe where I, where I did grow up. I'll have to admit that yeah.

NIALA: So Felix, the International Monetary Fund, just said the U.K. economy predicted it would be the worst performing G20 economy of the year, even worse than Russia. How much of that is because of Brexit?

FELIX: All of it. I mean, all of it in one way or another. Right. So there are two different things that are going on with Brexit. One is just, the British Isles are geographically part of Europe. And so when you put up huge trade barriers like they did with Brexit, that just causes the economy to shrink. It makes it much harder for European countries to export, import, all of that kind of good stuff. And then the other part of it is that Brexit was so divisive. You think that you live in a politically divided country in the United States, but Brexit was so divisive politically and caused this incredible political paralysis, so and so, yeah, it's created both economic and political chaos basically.

Elections have consequences, right? In the United States we elected Donald Trump as president, and that caused a whole bunch of very big and small consequences over the next four years while he was president. But then we had another election and we elected Joe Biden, and things changed to a very large degree. In the case of the Brexit referendum, it didn't work that way. It's not like you can choose to leave and then choose to rejoin. The Brexit referendum was permanent in a way that almost no other election result I can think of really is. And that has really damaged the U.K. not just for four years or five years, but really for decades to come.

NIALA: The current Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, announced the U.K.'s biggest trade agreement since Brexit with 11 Asian countries last week. Does this new trade agreement demonstrate what he said were post-Brexit freedoms?

FELIX: I think they scored it and it's going to increase GDP by like 0.02% or something like that. It's, it's a joke, right? He needs to deliver much bigger wins than that. But the problem is, as I say, the only really big wins are number one, Europe and number two, the United States, and neither of them seems realistic anytime soon.

NIALA: President Biden just landed in Ireland last night. He will be meeting with Rishi Sunak today. How has Brexit affected the economic relationship between the U.S. and the U.K.?

FELIX: So we used to have this thing called the special relationship, you know, there used to be in the Thatcher-Reagan era, this like great trans-Atlantic friendship. And then that was continued in the Clinton-Blair era and the two countries felt very close together. They share a common language. London and New York felt in many ways to be very similar to each other. But that's all gone now. Biden is very clear that he feels much closer to Ireland than he does to the U.K. And it's easy to see why Ireland is a more successful country than the U.K. It is economically thriving in the way that the U.K. isn't. Ireland is part of the European Union, right? So that has all of the trade agreements in place, and the U.K. has cut itself off from not only Europe, but also the United States because all of its trade agreements were via Europe. Now it needs to start from scratch and you know, that’s way down the list of priorities for Biden or any other U.S. president.

NIALA: Felix Salmon is Axios’ Chief Financial Correspondent. Thanks, Felix.

FELIX: I am sorry for being so pessimistic.

Fish and chips or shark and chips?

NIALA: One more U.K. headline before we go today - fish and chips are one iconic British dish. But the price of cod has gone up so much that the U.K. government just allowed for British fisherman to start catching a species of shark that’s sometimes used in its place.

In the past two years, the price of cod has risen more than 30%. That’s in part because of overall inflation - but also because the U.K. imports some of its cod from Russia - which, since the Ukraine War began, is subject to a 35% seafood levy.

So the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs last week lifted a ban on fishing of Northeast Atlantic spurdog that started in 2010 because of overfishing.

Environmental groups have still criticized the government’s move. Spur dog is a species of small shark, but it’s sometimes also called rock salmon or dog fish.

Either way, somehow - shark and chips doesn’t have quite the same ring, right?

I’m Niala Boodhoo - thanks for listening - stay safe and we’ll see you back here tomorrow morning.

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