“This is a travesty of the process and you know it,”
said Rep. Deb Butler, D-New Hanover.
On 9/11, the anniversary of the worst terrorist attack on American soil, Republicans in the NC House of Representatives misled Democrats to sneak a vote to override Gov. Cooper’s veto of the state budget. Democrats in the NC House did not attend the morning session because Republican leaders had promised there would be no morning votes on the House floor. With only 64 of the House’s 120 members present, the vote to override passed 55-9.
This ambush vote is a true assault on democracy and a shameful abuse of power. Republicans are shameless as they have hyper-gerrymandered their districts to the point where they are barely accountable to their voters. The courts have ruled those districts unconstitutional and ruled they must be redrawn. This ambush vote just confirms the need to end these gerrymandered districts and it underscores that GOP leaders in Raleigh cannot be trusted.
But this isn’t a case simply of hardball politics and sly legislative maneuvering. This is a case of breaking faith with the people of North Carolina and with all who strove and sacrificed over generations to protect and advance North Carolina’s political system as one based on a true representation of the people’s will, a true democracy.
And the legislation at issue isn’t a bill of limited scope. It is the state budget. It is how North Carolina defines itself by the priorities it sets in spending. And it’s being held up by a dispute over a major issue that involves billions of federal dollars and ultimately affects everyone in the state, Medicaid expansion.
The governor wants North Carolina — like 37 other states (including Washington, D.C.) — to expand the federal health insurance program to include more of the working poor. Republicans do not. The dispute — plus the governor’s call for bigger raises for teachers — led to the budget veto that the Republican majority — in any honest fashion — lacks the votes to override. The impasse should bring negotiations, concessions, alternatives and compromise, also known as the democratic process. Instead it brought forth a Republican shortcut — legislative deceit.
Not only was the House vote dishonest, it was carried out by a Republican majority that courts have repeatedly found to have gained seats through illegal gerrymandering. It was an illegitimate majority acting in an unethical way. These Republicans may be incapable of shame, but North Carolinians should be outraged. First by gerrymandering and now by a high-handed vote, something new has been taken from them. It’s called democracy.