Yesterday, in the aftermath of the controversial vote to override Governor Cooper’s budget veto, House Speaker Tim Moore released what he titled “A True Recap of how the N.C. House Overrode the Budget Veto.” It’s a defense of the vote but it’s contradictory at times and omits key facts that have been verified.
Moore claims that he never said that there would be no vote in the Wednesday morning session. In fact, he claims that he specifically said there would be votes on Wednesday. However, Minority Leader Darren Jackson said that Republican Rules Chair David Lewis told him there would be no votes in the Tuesday morning session. Lewis denies it, but Lewis told WRAL reporter Laura Leslie in a text, “No votes at 8:30.” Jackson is almost certainly telling the truth and Lewis’ denials ring hollow.
Throughout the summer, when the House had two sessions, a morning one and an afternoon one, the morning session had no votes or only perfunctory ones. Any contentious bills were taken up in the afternoon. Lewis telling Jackson that there would be no votes in the morning did not preclude votes in afternoon. When Moore says he specifically said there would be votes on Wednesday, he was referring to the session scheduled for 1pm, not the one at 8:30.
Moore also contradicts his own story. On the one hand, he says in the first point in his narrative that he made “two public announcements votes would be taken on Wednesday.” If that were true for the morning session, he would have expected his full caucus to be in the room at the 8:30 session. But he didn’t. He later writes, “House Republicans had only 55 members in session on Wednesday morning – not even enough to hold a majority on the floor with all members present.” Either there were votes expected or there weren’t. Speaker Moore can’t have it both ways.
In addition, Wednesday morning, Rep. Jon Hardister and possibly other leaders were whipping members to “Be in your seat at 8:30.” He wouldn’t have been doing that unless Republicans needed as many members present as possible. It may be that Moore and company only realized early Wednesday that Democrats thought it was a no-vote session. When they saw the opportunity, they started corralling members.
Moore maintains adamantly that only he could call a no-vote session. However, Lewis almost certainly told Jackson that there was a no-vote session. As Rules Chair, Lewis is known as one of the two or three most powerful House members with direct access to the Speaker. Jackson took him at his word.
It sounds like Moore played a game of Simon Says. All session long, he has made the announcement about no-vote sessions. Then, on Tuesday, Lewis tells the Democratic leader and the press that the Wednesday morning session will be a no-vote session. When neither the press nor the Democrats show up, Moore made the equivalent of saying, “I didn’t say Simon says” and called the vote. Jackson clearly believes that Lewis didn’t mean to deceive him, but whether he did or not is irrelevant to the outcome. The veto was overridden in a sham session.
Moore’s narrative never addresses whether Lewis told Jackson there was a no-vote session or not. While Lewis claims he never said there would be no votes on Wednesday, he avoids saying whether or not he implied there would no votes in the 8:30 session. Hardister and possibly other members of leadership were ordering GOP members to the room by 8:30. Clearly, they knew something was up.
The denials of Moore and others ring hollow. They’ve certainly lost the trust of their Democratic counterparts and they’ve probably lost the trust of the reporters covering the General Assembly. In the GOP of Donald Trump, though, honesty is for chumps. The only thing that matters is winning and in the minds of the GOP partisans, Tim Moore put up a win on Wednesday morning.
Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com. Before beginning PoliticsNC, Thomas spent twenty years as a political and public affairs consultant. Learn more >