House Republican Leaders intentionally deceived House Democrats, the press, and the public about a session held at 8:30 am, September 11, 2019, and rammed a vote on the State Budget through the House.
At the end of a non-voting session Tuesday night, the House Rules Committee Chairman David Lewis, who presided over the session, told Minority Leader Darren Jackson that no votes would be taken in the 8:30 am session Wednesday. The Minority Leader communicated this information to House Democrats via email.
Also, Rep. Lewis texted reporters that there would be no votes in the 8:30 am session Wednesday. (Copies of the text have circulated widely in news reports and social media.) I presume the purpose was to keep reporters from being on the floor to cover what would happen.
To add context, the House has scheduled scores of “No Vote Sessions” since January. This is normal operating procedure to dispense with parliamentary procedures that do not require the presence of members.
Wednesday morning, 55 Republicans arrived along with only a handful of Democrats (who were there because of 9 am Finance Committee Meeting). The House Speaker rammed through a vote on two veto overrides including the State Budget in minutes. He refused to allow any Democrats to speak on the bill (which would have given time for most Democrats to arrive). A video of what happened is available on social media. The veto override passed on a 55-9 vote—64 of the 120 members being present.
House Democrats have been incredibly vigilant in being on the floor and ready to vote on every occasion a voting session was called. Members have been there in spite of surgery, cancer treatments, family crises; they have missed vacations, family time, you name it. House Democrats have been here. Personally, I had NOT MISSED EVEN ONE VOTE since January until today when this deceptive vote was taken.
The two most contentious items have been House Bill 966 (the committee report on the state budget vetoed by Governor Cooper) and House Bill 655 (Medicaid Expansion). Both of these bills have been on the House Calendar since July 8. House Democrats have hung together tenaciously in favor of Governor Cooper’s compromise proposal. Neither vote has ever been called… Until 8:30 am, September 11, 2019.
In spite of intense pressure, House Democrats have held strong. The Budget impasse was mostly over five issues: Democrats favor covering more than 500,000 North Carolinians with health care coverage, better pay for teachers and other state employees, better school facilities, more funding for public infrastructure projects, and adequate funding for the NC Division of Health and Human Services.
House Democrats could not be beaten in a fair, honorable process. Instead, House Republicans resorted to a level of deception unprecedented in NC History.
So, the veto override goes to the NC Senate. NC Senate Democrats are committed to the same principles as House Democrats and will take up the cause.
Who loses because of today’s deceit? Democracy lost. The Institution of the House of NC lost. Integrity lost. Honor lost. Honesty lost. But more importantly… People in the Medicaid Gap lost. Children lost. Teachers lost. Most State Employees lost. Schools lost. Communities lost. And finally North Carolina lost in that House “Leadership” stooped to a new low to get their way.
Remember, House Democrats received over 51% of the vote statewide in 2018. These 65 Republican are in control in spite of getting a minority of North Carolinians’ votes.
On what was supposed to be a Day of Remembrance, the actions of House Republicans dishonored the day and every person who has sacrificed for freedom and democracy. Their actions were a sneak attack, dishonest at its core, and not worthy of the people of North Carolina.
North Carolinians deserve better. As your representative, I will continue to work to for a better state and a better House of Representatives.
Rep. Ray Russell
District 93, Ashe and Watauga Counties