Friday, October 2, 2015

GOP swirl at national and state levels make for interesting week

The below column is from this week's Herald Weekly.  It was submitted Monday night, prior to the flurry of activity at the NCGA Tuesday.

Couple of observations/updates.

1.  As was mentioned in the previous post, the Honorables actually expanded the use of the controversial committees rather than cutting them back.
2.  Local legislator John Bradford who indicated that he would have voted against H373 actually voted for S119 which contained the expanded provisions, so that gives a sense for how strongly he felt (or not) about the issue.  In fairness, so did John Blust who was one of the most vocal opponents of H373.  

Column from the Herald Weekly...

Wow! Last week was some week in the world of politics.

On Friday, you had the “surprise” but really not so surprising announcement that U.S. Speaker of the House, John Boehner, would be stepping down and resigning his seat in Congress.  It was a surprise because it came just one day after he achieved one of his long-time goals of coordinating a Papal address to a combined session of Congress.  However, if you've been following the action in Washington over this past Summer it is not all that surprising he decided to “go out on a high-note”.

Ever since late July, when Rep Mark Meadows (NC-11) threw down the gauntlet and publicly called for Boehner to be replaced, Boehner has had the Sword of Damocles hanging over his head.  On July 28th, Meadows submitted a motion to “vacate the chair”.  That's a fancy way of saying he wanted a vote on a new Speaker.  Boehner could have brought the issue for a vote if he was certain he had the votes to win cleanly.  The fact that he did not do that clearly signaled he was uncertain of that support.

Over the past two months, it became increasingly clear that if another vote was actually held, Boehner  may need Democrats to vote for him.  That would put him in the predicament of being a Speaker who couldn't win with just members of his own party.  Facing that potential embarrassing situation, it's not all that surprising he decided to resign.

However, facing a similar situation at the state level just the day before, leaders of the NC House came to a very different conclusion.

In a surprise move, the Republican-led NC General Assembly passed bill H373 with the last minute inclusion of a provision limiting the influence of the state's political parties.  The provision allows legislative leaders to take full control of the purse strings for caucus fundraising and expenditures by setting up what has been called by some  a “shadow” party structure.  Instead of the money going through the political parties and being subject to their rules, it would be controlled by legislative leaders directly. 

The bill passed the NC Senate with zero Democrats supporting it.  The House was a different story however.

The bill passed the House 52-49 only because seven Democrats supported it.  It was also voted on while a large number of Republicans were excused Thursday afternoon.  One of those excused was North Mecklenburg’s John Bradford.  In a Facebook post Thursday evening, Bradford indicated he would have been a “no” vote if he had been present.

Incidentally, the other North Mecklenburg legislators, Rep Charles Jeter and Sen. Jeff Tarte, both voted for the bill.

The divisiveness of this bill did not sit well with some Republican members of the legislature - much less with many party activists.  Republican Rep John Blust of Guilford County had this to say on Facebook Thursday evening after the vote.

“Honorable people do not conduct the public's business this way. The attitude reflected by the leaders in carrying this out shows a profound disrespect not only for the other legislators, but for the people we represent.”

Before this offending provision was added, H373 was simply a bill intended to move NC's primary date back to March to avoid penalties at next year's Republican National Convention.  To do so it needed to be passed by an October 1st deadline.

The short time left  makes a veto – something being encouraged by many NCGOP activists - unlikely since that penalty will go into effect if the bill is not signed before October 1st.  As of this writing Monday night, no veto had been issued.  

By the time you read this On Thursday, this bill will have passed or there will have been a whirlwind of activity at the NCGA to remove it and resubmit after a veto.  In either case, it will have been quite the week.

NC House Republican leaders  will have also proven they they have a higher tolerance for embarrassment than John Boehner - using votes from the other party to help gut their own.

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