Both parties are crying foul after the North Carolina House voted to override the governor's veto of the state's fiscal 2020 budget when most Democrats were absent from the proceedings.
Democrats say they were misled by Republicans when the House completed a “surprise” vote to override Wednesday morning. Republicans say they have proof that the claims are invalid.
“This is completely false. There was no such announcement. To the contrary, I publicly announced twice that there would be recorded votes today,” House Rules Committee Chairman David Lewis, R-Harnett, said.
The budget stalemate entered its third month last week before Wednesday's vote.
Cooper Wednesday called the move by Republicans “deceptive,” pointing out that the vote took place on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
The House vote was 55-15, securing the third-fifths vote needed to override the governor’s veto. The budget now heads to the Senate, where it would take 30 votes to override the veto. There are 29 Republican and 21 Democratic senators in the senior chamber, meaning if all Republicans are present, it would take one Democratic senator to complete the override. A vote could happen as soon as Thursday.
Rep. Jason Saine, R–Lincolnton, motioned for the veto override to be voted on shortly after Wednesday's session started at 8:30 a.m.
According to the official record, 39 Democratic and five Republican representatives did not vote. Six other members were marked absent. All 15 Democrats who voted were in opposition of the override.
Many Democrats tried to interrupt the proceedings in objection to the motion.
“This is a tragedy, a travesty of the process,” Rep. Deb Butler, D–Wilmington, said. “Our leadership is not present. This is improper.”
House Minority Leader Darren Jackson could not be reached for comment but reportedly said that Lewis, who served in Speaker’s role Tuesday, told him that no votes would be called until at least 1 p.m.
Lewis said some Democrats were in a closed-door caucus meeting. However, Todd Barlow, legislative counselor, said Wednesday afternoon that “House Democrats were not in a caucus meeting at 8:30 a.m. Caucus was scheduled at 11 a.m.”
There have been unconfirmed reports that missing Democrats were attending 9-11 memorial events, but Republicans disputed that.
House Speaker Tim Moore could be heard speaking Wednesday over Democratic representatives, who refused to yield as he continued to open the floor for the vote.
“The chair would confirm that there was no announcement that there would be no votes this morning. That was not stated,” Moore said.
Moore provided audio from Tuesday’s session, where Lewis could be heard adding bills to the calendar for a vote on Wednesday.
Cooper vetoed the budget in late June, saying that it prioritized corporations over people and did not include an expansion of Medicaid, something he's pushed for. The governor drafted a compromise proposal which had higher pay raises for teachers and a $2 billion, partially federally funded Medicaid expansion.
Republican leaders said they did not want to expand Medicaid.