It’s the dog days of summer and things are getting hot in the legislature. A budget stalemate has tensions high and the potential for a veto override means legislators are on high alert. Speaker Tim Moore has essentially left the possibility of an override vote at any time during sessions. Democrats are counting heads and trying to hold their caucuses together. 

Republicans, for their part, are counting heads looking for a moment when enough Democrats might be absent to call a quick vote and get the margin they need to override Governor Roy Cooper’s veto. They’re also trying to buy off legislators with offers of pork for their districts. At least a few of the Democrats are tempted. 

Several Democrats voted for the budget but have said they won’t oppose Cooper’s veto. Rep. Billy Richardson of Fayetteville has cut a deal he’s sticking with. Apparently, Richardson is prepared to vote to override the veto. ProgressNC, a progressive advocacy organization, slammed him for choosing pork over Medicaid expansion and called on constituents to reach out to Richardson urging him to sustain the veto. 

On the Senate side, Durham state Senator Floyd McKissick disappeared from the building and the leadership was looking for him. In a testy exchange on Facebook, fellow Democratic Senator Michael Garrett of Greensboro posted, “If anyone has seen Sen. Floyd B. McKissick Jr, please let him know his Democratic colleagues eagerly await his return to sustain Governor Cooper’s veto…” McKissick angrily responded calling the post “highly inappropriate,” saying Democrats “should be supportive” of each other instead of casting dispersions. Rumor has it that the state highway patrol had to find McKissick and get him back to the building.

McKissick voted for the budget but hasn’t said whether he would sustain the veto. He’s about to leave the Senate to take a seat on the Utilities Commission. Cooper appointed him to the Commission which includes a healthy salary. If McKissick votes to overturn the veto, he’s biting the hand that feeds him. If he votes to sustain the veto, he’ll likely lose whatever perks he got from Republicans that made him vote for the veto in the first place.

In contrast, Senator Jeff Jackson showed up in the legislature in his army fatigues. He was fulfilling his reserve duty but rearranged his schedule to make sure he would be present to sustain the veto. Jackson apparently borrowed a suit to go on the senate floor but was still wearing combat boots. Must have looked like something out of A Clockwork Orange.

Democrats are struggling to hold their caucus together to try and force concessions in the budget, specifically Medicaid expansion. It might work, but they’ve got to stay unified. Right now, they’re airing a bit of dirty laundry in public, which is not a great look, but reflects the tension and pressure in the legislature. For observers, though, it makes a good show.

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