Many state lawmakers are expressing frustration after House Speaker Glen Casada announced Tuesday that he doesn't intend to resign for another two months.
The embattled speaker sent a letter to members laying out his plans to step down from the House’s top post. The decision drew immediate fire from the Republican lawmaker next in line to succeed him, as well as from several Democrats.
Casada did not indicate any intention of giving up his seat in the state legislature, which he has held for nearly two decades.
The Franklin Republican's decision came after he held conversations this week with Gov. Bill Lee and Republican lawmakers in the House, including William Lamberth. The House Majority Leader said he would have liked for Casada’s resignation to happen sooner but he accepts it.
"I appreciate the fact that the speaker has agreed to resign. That is exactly what the caucus and the caucus leadership team has requested that he do," Lamberth told reporters Tuesday. "So while it’s a little farther out than I would like, I respect the fact that he has chosen to resign as requested."
Casada's decision comes two weeks after the House Republican Caucus cast an unprecedented 45-24 no-confidence vote in his leadership.
That followed questions about his spending and staffing decisions; an allegation that his office fabricated evidence against an African American political opponent; and the leaking of racist and lewd text messages between him and his former chief of staff, Cade Cothren.
Cothren, who has already resigned, also admitted to using cocaine in legislative offices.
After the no-confidence vote, Casada left for a family vacation overseas. Calls for him to step down as speaker have continued since then, and the decision to put off that move until early August drew still more fire.
"Every day that Glen Casada is in office is a slap in the face to to women, communities of color, and all Tennesseans who expect real work and not lines of coke to be done at the state capitol," Mary Mancini, the chair of the Tennessee Democratic Party, said in an emailed statement. "The Democrats have been sounding the alarm since Casada’s corruption began, and we’ll continue to fight to restore accountability and decency to the Tennessee legislature."
Casada offered no explanation for the date of his resignation, Aug. 2, but it falls on his 60th birthday. That age does not affect his state pension.
Casada’s decision runs contrary to the advice Speaker Pro Tempore Bill Dunn, R-Knoxville, said he gave him when he talked to Casada this week.
Dunn told WPLN he asked the speaker to step down immediately.
“This is horrible for the members, it’s horrible for the state," Dunn said. "I don’t think it’s good for him as an individual, and so he just really needs to resign.”
Rep. Mike Stewart, D-Nashville, agreed.
"There's no justification for any further delay," Stewart said. "He needs to resign right now."
It's also not certain what happens next after Casada resigns. Lamberth said he’d like Lee to call for a special session to elect a new speaker, something that Casada has also requested. But the governor has not indicated whether to he intends to do so.
"Now that the speaker has announced his intended timeline, we will continue to be in close communication with House leadership and members to determine the best outcome for the House and for Tennessee," Lee said in a prepared statement.
This story was updated to include information about Casada's age and pension status.