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What happens if a U.S. senator for Texas resigns?

Many have called for Sen. Ted Cruz's resignation. We looked into what happens if a Texas senator resigns.

AUSTIN, Texas — In the aftermath of the deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol, many have called for Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) to either resign or be disbarred. While Cruz has not indicated he has any intention of resigning, we took a look at how the resignation process works for Texas senators.

In the weeks prior to the deadly riots at the U.S. Capitol, Cruz continued to challenge President-elect Joe Biden's victory in the 2020 presidential election, citing unproven reports of election fraud. The senator has faced heavy criticism over these objections.

In a video excerpt taken just hours before the riot on Jan. 6, Cruz said the idea that some Americans believe the election was "rigged" is a "profound threat to this country" and that voting against the objection was a "statement that voter fraud doesn't matter, isn't real and shouldn't be taken seriously."

Since the riot, thousands of people have signed a petition to disbar Cruz, and others – including political figures – have called on him to resign. Biden himself has also said voters should oust Cruz and Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Missouri) in the next election.

"I think they should be just flat beaten the next time they run," Biden said. "I think the American public has a real good clear look at who they are. They're part of the big lie, the big lie."

Cruz has said he does not assume any blame for what happened at the Capitol.

“Not remotely,” he said. “What I was doing and what the other senators were doing is what we were elected to do, which is debating matters of great import in the chamber of the United States Senate. I joined with 11 other Senators and we proposed to the Senate that Congress should appoint an electoral commission."

While Cruz does not appear to have any intention of resigning, some may still be wondering what happens if he – or any Texas senator – resigns. We looked into the process.

What happens after a U.S. senator resigns?

If a vacancy occurs due to a senator's death, resignation or expulsion, the 17th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution allows state legislatures to empower the governor to appoint a replacement to complete the term or to hold office until a special election can take place. Some states, including Texas, require a special election to fill a vacancy.

In Texas, the governor can fill a Senate vacancy temporarily by appointment if the vacancy exists or will exist when Congress is in session, according to the Congressional Research Service (CRS).

If the vacancy occurs in an even-numbered year and 62 or more days before the primary election, the vacancy is filled at that year's general election. If the vacancy occurs in an odd-numbered year or fewer than 62 days before the primary – as would be the case if it happened in 2021 – the Texas governor calls a special election that is scheduled for "the first uniform election date falling 36 or more days after it has been ordered."

Have any U.S. senators for Texas resigned in the past?

Yes, but very few. Since 1900, there have only been four U.S. senators for Texas to resign from their seats, all Democrats.

Joseph Weldon Bailey resigned in September 1911 because he was "facing a stern challenge in 1912" and had become "disillusioned by the progressive movement within the Democratic party," according to the Texas State Historical Society.

Prince Daniel ran for governor of Texas and, upon his nomination in 1956, resigned from the Senate, according to the Texas Politics Project. Daniel served as the governor through 1962, when he lost his bid to be elected to a fourth term. William A. Blakely was appointed to fill his Senate seat vacancy.

Lyndon B. Johnson resigned from the Senate in 1961 to take office as U.S. Vice President to President John F. Kennedy. Blakely was again appointed to fill the vacancy. 

And Lloyd Bentsen resigned in 1993 to serve as the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury under President Bill Clinton. Robert Krueger was appointed to fill the vacancy.

Texas has had one other appointed senator, Democrat Andrew Jackson Houston, who was appointed in 1941 to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Morris Sheppard.

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