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Friday, December 28, 2012

The Coup



In November; despite some close races and a couple of predictable losses, the people of Washington State voted to keep Democrats in the majority in the Olympia. However, in January there will be an attempt at a political coup there when two state senators, who have previously caucused with the Democrats, join with the minority Republicans to seize power in the state senate. Here is the basic layout of the proposed power grab:

As a result of the recent election, Democrats will hold a 26-23 majority over senate Republicans when that body convenes on January 13th. As such, under current senate rules they will be recognized as the majority and will elect the majority leader and name the chairs of all the policy committees. In order for the coup to be successful senate rules will need to be changed on the first day of the legislative session that will, in effect, allow for the “majority” to be defined as something other than political party affiliation. To accomplish this (by a simple majority vote), Medina “DINO” Rodney Tom and Shelton “DINO” Tim Sheldon will join forces with the 23 Republicans. And then the real coup begins.

Once the senate rules have been changed, this new majority will hold official coronations for Tom and Sheldon as Majority Leader and President Pro-Tem respectively and, according to the plan already released by Sen. Tom, begin naming eager Republican senators to the chairmanships of the 6 most influential committees in that chamber; including Ways and Means, Budget, and Education. In a condescending gesture, Democrats (who, again, were elected by the people to hold the majority) will be offered chairmanships of 6 other committees and the opportunity to co-chair 3 other committees with Republicans.

For his part current Majority Leader Sen. Ed Murray (as elected by the Democratic Caucus – including both Tom and Sheldon) is holding the line against this hostile takeover of the senate. He says he's not ceding his leadership position until members of a new Republican-majority caucus move to change the rules on the Senate floor to put someone else in charge. In a letter to the former Republican from Medina, Murray stated,

"Under the current and past Senate rules, and longstanding past interpretations of those rules, the majority caucus is defined as the party containing the most elected members, which currently remains the Democratic caucus. As such, the majority leader is elected by the Democratic Caucus under the provisions of our own caucus rules."

He also indicated that he has conferred with newly re-elected Lt. Governor and President of the Senate, Democrat Brad Owen who has said he will continue to recognize the Democratic caucus as the majority caucus of the Senate until such time as the rules of the senate are changed.

Referring to this political posturing as “bi-partisanship” (in the most Orwellian sense of the word), Tom sent a letter to current Majority Leader suggesting that, "We believe it would be best for the institution and by extension, the people of Washington, if the current majority would accommodate our incoming majority in the various ways that will enable the Senate to be fully functioning on January 14."

Some other senate Democrats are understandably concerned about the moves. Sen. Nick Harper from Everett has called the move, "a power grab disguised as bipartisanship." Another senator who would be directly affected by the maneuver would be Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe, D-Bothell. Having just won re-election in a hard fought contest to retain her position as chairwoman of the Senate education committee, McAuliffe would now find herself stripped of that position and replaced by a Republican. She says this of the situation, "I am shocked and I am disappointed. To take away my chair, that's a takeover; that's not a coalition."

With just over 2 weeks to go before the new legislative session begins there doesn’t appear to be much change in the air that might alter the projected course of events. But we are talking politics and there are always coalitions within coalitions. Silent in the public conversation at the moment is Lake Stevens “Road Kill” leader, Steve Hobbs and many others from his “centrist” coalition. And while most of the Republican chatter is positive (After all, they woke up on Nov 7 as the minority and without an additional ballot being cast now find themselves on the doorstep with the keys to the castle), one can’t help but wonder how long it will take for the more stringent social conservatives to begin to flex their muscles in the new committee homes. As a matter of fact; in one of the more bizarre twists in this story of coalition building, Republican diva Pam Roach - seen as so caustic even for her own Republican caucus mates she was kicked out of her caucus two years ago because of accusations of mistreating staff. She was allowed back in this year during the Republican budget coup last year, but she is still barred from interacting with Senate staff. When the "Rodney Tom Coalition" rides into town, Roach will be awarded the chairmanship of the Government Operations Committee.

Sen. Tom insists that the purpose behind the coup in to bring a more "centralist" agenda to bear on fiscal matters. Having left the Republican Party over differences with their "out of the mainstream" social agenda, he says he has no plans to "allow" that agenda to enter into the dealings of the new Majority Coalition. Of course, this will be an interesting adventure to witness as, even though Tom says that any social legislation will be "off the table"   there is always "social agenda" weaved into every budget. Perhaps the senator might want to familiarize himself with the amendment process. When the cutting begins, let's see how long the social agenda stays off the table.

It is common to have a spectacular fireworks show to bring in the New Year. This year I have a feeling that the real display may take place a couple of weeks late.


Peace,
Chad (The Left) Shue

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