According to North Carolina House Republicans, there’s no better time for a “surprise vote” than when your colleagues across the aisle are attending events honoring the victims and first responders of 9/11. On Wednesday, the House GOP used Democrats’ commemorative absence as an opportunity to pass a vote overriding Democratic Governor Roy Cooper’s veto of the state’s two-year budget.
According to a schedule produced by Democratic Minority Leader Darren Jackson, there were no votes on the docket until the afternoon, and at 8:30 a.m., Dems were reportedly told it would be an empty morning. But shortly before 9 a.m., Republican Jason Saine pulled a switcheroo, making the motion to review the budget. With just enough members present to hold a vote, GOP lawmakers passed the veto override, 55 to 9. Describing their opportunity, Saine said that House Speaker Tim Moore “made the promise early on in the budgeting process that anytime we saw an opportunity to override the veto we would do so.” Concerns that he was taking the Republican speaker’s words too seriously were expelled when Moore told the local CBS affiliate: “It’s a great day for North Carolina.”
Democrats disagreed. Shortly after the vote, Democratic State Senator Jeff Jackson called the effort “plainly unethical.” Representative Deb Butler, one of the few Democrats present for the vote, condemned Speaker Moore before it was cast, shouting: “This is a travesty of the process and you know it.” Moore reportedly threatened Butler with arrest in order to stop her objections, before fellow Democrats surrounded her to prevent her removal.
In terms of wielding power without regard to ethics or consequence, North Carolina House Republicans don’t have the creativity points of their counterparts in Oregon, where in June, GOP lawmakers fled the state in order to halt progress on a climate bill that would create a cap-and-trade solution for carbon emissions. But what the Carolinians lack in creativity, they make up for in their willingness to use a national tragedy to pursue political interests. As New York’s Jonathan Chait and Zak Cheney-Rice noted today, the Republican Party often uses September 11 as a “nationalist totem” and to “accuse its opponents of being insufficiently patriotic.” But rarely do they employ the tragedy in politics as directly, and as transactionally, as in North Carolina.