Raleigh, N.C. — In a surprise vote, the House overrode Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of the state budget in an early morning session Wednesday as some Democrats yelled at House Speaker Tim Moore from the floor.
Within hours, Cooper unleashed a blistering attack on House Republican leadership, calling them liars who would stop at nothing to get their way.
“On a day when tragedy united our country,” Cooper said during a news conference at the Executive Mansion, invoking the memory of 9/11, “we should be standing together despite party. Instead, Republicans used their most deceptive stunt yet.”
The House voted 55-9 for the override, with most Democratic representatives absent. Democrats complained before the vote they didn’t expect a voting session Wednesday morning, but Moore pressed forward.
Rep. Deb Butler, D-New Hanover, shouted objections as Rep. John Autry, D-Mecklenburg, recorded video on his cellphone.
“You shall not do this to democracy in North Carolina, Mr. Speaker. How dare you do this, Mr. Speaker,” she shouted as Moore tried to gavel her to silence and then turned off her microphone. “I will not yield, Mr. Speaker.”
Butler said in a subsequent press conference that she was threatened with arrest as Moore tried to quiet her objections.
House Sergeant at Arms Garland Shepheard said Butler was never threatened with arrest, though he asked a police officer to come to the floor. Shepheard said he approached Butler at Moore’s request and asked her to leave.
“Not tell her she had to, asking,” he said.
Video shows a number of officers gathering at the House doors and a handful of Democrats surrounding Butler. She said later it was to protect her.
“If they didn’t want it to pass, all they had to do was show up for work,” Moore said during an afternoon news conference. “Our job as a House member is to be on that floor, in that seat, near that green or that red button when we take up matters.”
Moore repeatedly maintained during the question-and-answer session that no announcement was made Tuesday that there would be no votes held Wednesday morning. The budget bill was on the published House calendar for action Wednesday, as it has been for weeks without coming up for a vote.
“I made clear that, if I saw an opportunity to [override the veto], I’m going to do it,” he said. “The bill was properly noticed. Procedures were properly followed.”
“This is a great day for the state of North Carolina because we’re one step closer to having a budget,” he added.
House Minority Leader Darren Jackson said in a hastily called press conference after the vote that House Rules Chairman David Lewis told him Tuesday the House would take no recorded votes on the floor until 1 p.m. Wednesday. Jackson, D-Wake, said he then told his caucus they didn’t need to be on the floor Wednesday morning and could instead prepare for redistricting meetings and other legislative business planned for the day.
Lewis, R-Harnett, said he never told Jackson there would be no votes on Wednesday morning, saying that he told him the House wouldn’t vote on two “mini-budget” bills added to the floor calendar that would provide money for disaster relief and for prison safety upgrades until after House Democrats caucused Wednesday morning.
“At no time do I recall Rep. Jackson asking if there would be no recorded votes at all,” Lewis said during an afternoon news conference. “They complain regularly that they are forced to attend legislative sessions because the override could be called at any time. This morning was no different.”
Lewis did acknowledge telling a WRAL News reporter via text Tuesday night that there would be no votes at the 8:30 a.m. session. But he said that’s because he didn’t think there would be any. He wasn’t on the floor during the override vote.
Several House Republicans coming out of a caucus shortly after 10:15 a.m. said they felt the surprise vote was fair game, noting that Moore has made it clear for weeks that he would call the override vote whenever the opportunity arose.
“The speaker said at any given opportunity he would call it,” longtime Rep. Julia Howard, R-Davie, said. “The opportunity was there, and he called it.”
Catawba College politics professor Michael Bitzer said the maneuver was “hard-ball legislative politics, and the Democrats were caught off-guard by it.”
“It’s part of the legislative ‘rules of the game,’ and if you opponent doesn’t show up, use the rules to your advantage, which the speaker did,” Bitzer said.
Cooper obviously disagreed with stance, saying lawmakers have to rely on each others’ words in order for democracy to work.
“Can I trust anything they say?” he said. “We just have to realize what we’re dealing with is Republican leadership that believes lies are acceptable.”
On Wednesday afternoon, Jackson implored the House recall the budget bill and another vetoed bill that was overridden during the morning session – the House voted 54-14 to override Cooper’s recent video of a mini-budget bill to provide money to shift Medicaid to a managed care system.
“I don’t believe this is the way we want to treat each other,” he told House members, adding that he doesn’t believe Lewis lied or misled him about the morning session. “I do not believe you want to legislate by ambush.”
Lewis apologized for the confusion but urged House members to defeat Jackson’s effort, saying most people want the state budget passed.
“I believe firmly that, with all due respect, Rep. Jackson heard something and is convinced that he heard something, and I am convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that I didn’t say it,” he said.
The House then voted down the motion 54-61 along party lines.
The governor vetoed the $24 billion budget in June, calling it “an astonishing failure of common sense and common decency.” The budget doesn’t expand Medicaid coverage to thousands of low-income working adults and includes a business tax cut.
Cooper and legislative Democrats have used the budget veto as leverage in an attempt to force Medicaid expansion in the GOP-majority General Assembly. Republican leaders have said previously that a House vote on a Republican-authored Medicaid expansion proposal would go in tandem with a veto override, but Cooper said he has neither seen nor heard of any pending action on the so-called “Carolina Cares” legislation.
“They’ve resorted to lies and deception instead of true negotiation,” he said.
Moore said later that the House would vote on the measure next week after sponsors make some changes to it.
Overriding the budget veto has been on the House agenda for months, and both parties have made it a priority to be on the floor in numbers as the standoff continued. The rules require a three-fifths vote of members present and voting to override a veto. Democrats have complained of missed vacations and other inconveniences during the standoff, and Rep. Sydney Batch, D-Wake, returned early from cancer recovery at one point to help her caucus keep its numbers up.
There were 12 Democrats on the floor for Wednesday’s vote, Democrats said in their press conference. Because some of them were moving around the floor, picking up working microphones after the speaker turned theirs off, not all of them voted on the measure, they said.
“There was no confusion about what happened here. This was a lie,” Cooper said. “The Republican caucus was lying in wait ready for this.”
On Wednesday afternoon, Democrats who were on the floor during the morning session asked to be recorded as a “no” vote on the override, making the final vote 55-15.
The budget veto still has to be overridden by the Senate to go into effect. Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger said no vote would be taken before next week so senators can focus on redistricting.
Senate Republicans also don’t have a veto-proof majority, but leaders said they’re confident they have the votes. If everyone attends, Republicans need to peel away only one Democratic vote, as they did earlier this year on an abortion bill Cooper vetoed.
Sen. Don Davis, D-Pitt, was the lone Democrat to vote to override the abortion veto, but he said Wednesday that he would support the budget veto.
The governor said he has spoken with Senate Democrats about standing firm against an override, but he noted the razor-thin margin and said one Democratic senator was attending a family funeral Wednesday.
Matthew Burns, WRAL.com senior producer/politics editor, and WRAL education reporter Kelly Hinchcliffe contributed to this report.
Published at Thu, 12 Sep 2019 00:02:57 +0000