'Shame on you': North Carolina GOP votes to override veto while Democrats were absent

One Democratic lawmaker called the move "scorched earth politics."
Image:
Rep. Darren Jackson, House Democratic leader, at a news conference with other Democratic House members on Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2019. Ethan Hyman / The News and Observer via AP

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By Dartunorro Clark

North Carolina House Democrats are calling foul on their Republican colleagues for voting to override the governor's budget veto on Wednesday while most Democrats were not present.

The uproar began after GOP Rep. Jason Saine made a motion early Wednesday morning to reconsider the budget that was vetoed by Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper earlier this year, according to The Raleigh News & Observer.

Democrats excoriated Republicans on social media and the few who were present in the House at the time of the vote furiously protested the decision. Only 12 Democrats were in the House, but they did not all have an opportunity to vote and their microphones were cut off, the paper reported. The vote passed 55-9. The issue now moves to the state's GOP-controlled Senate.

"How dare you do this, Mr. Speaker!" said Democratic Rep. Deb Butler, who was surrounded by fellow Democrats on the House floor as she shouted in protest at the decision, according to a video posted online by a Democratic colleague. "If this is the way you think democracy works, shame on you. This is not appropriate and you know it. The people of North Carolina, you will answer to the people of North Carolina."

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Bulter later told The News & Observer that the Republicans were practicing "scorched earth politics."

House Democratic leader Darren Jackson told the paper that he informed Democrats that they did not need to be present because Republican Rep. David Lewis said there would be no recorded votes. The North Carolina House is a 120-member body and Republicans hold a 65–55 majority. However, last year Democrats won enough seats in the House to end the GOP's supermajority, which had allowed them to override a veto.

"If we can’t trust each other, this place will fall apart, it’s just too big an entity to run, too many processes to require for everything to be in writing," Jackson said.

Cooper was attending a 9/11 memorial when the chaos unfolded. Speaking at a press conference later on Wednesday, Cooper blasted Republican leadership as "deceptive" and "beyond desperate."

"On a day when tragedy united our country, we should be standing together despite party. But instead Republicans pulled their most deceptive stunt yet," he said. "Republicans waged an assault on our democracy. They cheated the people of North Carolina."

Democratic Sen. Jeff Jackson said the vote was "a new low."

"There have to be consequences for this kind of behavior," he said. "Just another lesson in why they must lose their majority."

House Speaker Tim Moore defended the move, denying that Republicans told colleagues there wouldn't be any votes.

"I said when I realized we had the opportunity to do the veto override, we’re going to do it," he said in a statement on Wednesday. "I've always been very clear. When I’ve told folks there’s not going to be votes, there are not votes. I’ve kept my word on that."

Wednesday's vote comes amid an ongoing debate in North Carolina about Republican-led partisan gerrymandering. A panel of judges last week ruled that the state's legislative maps "do not permit voters to freely choose their representative, but rather representatives are choosing voters based upon sophisticated partisan sorting."