It’s been a tough few years for legislative Republicans. They’re a perpetual minority with little influence. Push comes to shove, about all they can do is call a press conference and let Don Turner bemoan the latest actions of the Democratic majority.
This year, things are looking a little different. Well, they’re still in a minority, but they seem to have gotten a little bit feisty — looking for opportunities to throw their weight around. I’m guessing it as something to do with Phil Scott’s candidacy for governor:
— It’s their best prospect for retaking the corner office since 2010*, which has to boost their morale, and
— The more trouble they cause, the better it is for Scott. (Who, as the Nice Guy in the room, would never ever stoop to chicanery, no sir. Ahem. See below.)
*Yes, Scott Milne almost won in 2014, but nobody thought he stood a chance. He wasn’t considered a prospect until election night. Until then, he was actually a drag on Republicans’ view of their chances.
We’re still early in the session, and we’ve seen two very high-profile spots where Republican lawmakers went out of their way to throw a wrench in the works.
First, we had the last-minute maneuver that forced House leadership to call a midnight session on January 30 to pass revisions to Act 35, the school funding bill. The vote could have come during the day Friday, but House Republicans blocked efforts to suspend normal rules. They knew the bill would pass; all they succeeded in doing was postponing the inevitable by a few hours. But it did inconvenience the Democrats, and it did open the door to inflammatory rhetoric about the majority “passing Act 46 in the dead of night.”
And then last week saw the backstage conniving around the paid sick leave bill, which had passed the Senate by a single vote. Three prominent Republicans — State Rep. Patti Komline, Washington County Republican Pat McDonald, and Sen. Peg Flory — reportedly hatched a plan to get Sen. Bill Doyle to flip his vote, and perhaps derail the legislation entirely. Senate leadership evaded the trap by postponing the measure until this week, and President Pro Tem John Campbell used the time to fashion a work-around.
In the end, it caused some hard feelings and wasted some time, but it didn’t change the final outcome. That’s what legislative minorities often do: they keep their eyes open for procedural opportunities to throw a wrench in the works. But here in good old Vermont, the Republicans haven’t been quite so overt. The question is, will we see more of this between now and adjournment?
I certainly wouldn’t be surprised.
Postscript. Our ever-genial Lieutenant Governor Phil Scott publicly kept his distance from the sick-leave shenanigans, even as he continued to preside over the Senate. But Komline ran his most recent re-election campaign, and the three women had their meeting in Scott’s Statehouse office.
Tell me, do people just wander into that office and ask to hold a private meeting?
Didn’t think so.
Was it just a coincidence that the three plotters were a former Scott campaign manager, a longtime fellow Washington County Republican, and a longtime Senate colleague?
Don’t think so.
Was this little gambit carried out in a way that would keep Scott’s hands clean?
Is it plausible that he was completely uninvolved?