Lies and deceit: two words one could use to describe the political ambush conducted by North Carolina’s Republican lawmakers on a vote with a little over half of the House’s representatives in attendance.
Early last Wednesday morning, North Carolina’s House of Representatives overrode Governor Roy Cooper’s veto of a budget bill in a controversial vote (55-9). According to the News & Observer, only nine Democratic leaders were on the floor of the General Assembly. The vote came as a surprise to Democratic leaders, the media and Gov. Cooper. Democratic lawmakers claim they were told by the GOP that no vote would be held during the early morning session, which explains why nearly 46 Democrats were absent during that session. However, even without 56 members of the House, Republican Representative Jason Saine continued his motion to reconsider the state’s budget. The few Democrats that were in attendance immediately objected to the motion.
Democratic Representative Deb Butler protested from the floor legislature as they continued to hold the vote. In a video that went viral on Twitter that same day, Butler shouts, “This is a travesty of the process and you know it!” and “I will not yield!” As the video began to circulate online, the hashtag #wewillnotyield began to trend. Democrats and other supporters refused to tolerate the power grab made by N.C. Republicans that Wednesday morning.
The News & Observer reported that Gov. Cooper had vetoed the two-year budget bill earlier this summer, due to its negligence of teacher pay, failure to expand federal healthcare, and its large tax cuts for corporations. It comes as no surprise that N.C. Republican leaders placed a vote to override the veto on every House calendar for this legislative session, looking for the opportunity to override Cooper. While the vote was placed on every day of the calendar during this session, this didn’t mean there would be a vote: it meant only that there could be a vote.
Three hours after this ambush, Cooper held a press conference in which he called the vote “an assault to our democracy.” When Cooper won the election for state Governor two years ago, it marked a big victory for Democrats. For the first two years of Cooper’s gubernatorial seat, Republicans held a supermajority of both the state’s Senate and House of Representatives, which gave them carte blanche to override each of Gov. Cooper’s vetoes. Upon losing this supermajority during the 2018 elections, Cooper finally gained the power to veto without being immediately overruled by Republicans.
Reflecting on this total political chaos, we must also take into account that a percentage of the elected Republicans shouldn’t even hold a seat in our state’s government. North Carolina’s state court found the current district lines unconstitutional and undemocratic. The district lines had been drawn by Thomas Hofeller, a GOP strategist, whose estranged daughter released his hard-drives after his passing in 2018. According to the New Yorker, Hofeller’s hard drives proved that Hofeller had drawn N.C. lines using prior election results. This resulted in extreme partisan advantage in those districts, and systematically prevented people of color from voting.
As North Carolinians, we should be embarrassed by N.C. Republican leaders making our state’s government look like the punchline of a poorly written SNL skit. Whether or not there was a secret plan to deceive Democrats, the distress from our Democratic state leaders and the public’s confusion is enough to grant uncertainty. How can we trust our elected officials when they spend nearly all summer arguing over the state budget, then possibly concoct schemes in order to get what they want? If our representatives are more concerned about getting what they want than the well-being of our state’s citizens, it’s time to boot them out of office.
Our great state’s budget plan sets North Carolina’s priorities in showing where N.C. decides to focus spending. Our state lawmakers should be looking at solving the budget issues through negotiating, compromising and providing alternatives. Republicans forgot to consider North Carolinians when they decided to have their cake and eat it too. Republicans took away democracy through gerrymandering and now with the unethical vote by an unwarranted majority. On a day known to bring the citizens of this country together regardless of party, we were shown that our state’s government can’t be trusted. As a constituent of North Carolina, I am outraged and disappointed. And you should be too.