Tim Ashe, former Senate President Pro Tem and current deputy state auditor, stepped right into it Sunday afternoon. He immediately tried to step back, but the shit was plastered all over his shoe.
Ashe, who is widely expected to run for [insert office here] sometime soon, put out a Tweet criticizing Democrats (not directly by name; he might be running in a party primary any day now) for failing to enact paid family leave.
Nice try. The problem is, as anyone who’s been following Vermont politics for more than about five minutes knows, is that under his leadership the Senate was the biggest obstacle in the path of paid leave. For several years running, as Democrats were trying to enact paid leave and a minimum wage increase, the House favored leave and the Senate favored wage. Each effectively stood in the way of the other. And Ashe repeatedly raised objections to paid leave.
After a bunch of Tweeters called him out, Ashe quickly deleted the tweet. Unfortunately for him, screenshots are a thing.
Now, legislative process is complicated. Some votes are purely meant for show. That allowed Ashe, during his stunningly unsuccessful bid for lieutenant governor in 2020, to claim that he had twice ushered paid leave bills through the Senate. Which he did. But the bills included poison pills unacceptable to House Democrats, and their passage did nothing to advance the issue. If anything, the Senate action was nothing more than a hearty “fuck you” to the House.
Which led to, among other things, the dramatic end of the 2019 session. After weeks of fruitless House-Senate negotiations, then-House speaker Mitzi Johnson told Ashe to shit or get off the pot.
Johnson gave Senate President Pro Tem Tim Ashe an ultimatum Friday morning. In a letter, she gave Ashe until noon to agree on a paid family leave and minimum wage compromise, or she said she would adjourn the House.
… For days, the Senate tried to force the House to take up their version of paid leave and minimum wage bills by holding the budget and revenue bills hostage. That standoff continued Friday morning until Johnson laid down the adjournment gauntlet.
And adjourn she did, leaving Ashe holding the proverbial bag.
The previous year Ashe professed his desire to pass both measures — even as his chamber continued to favor minimum wage. But among paid leave advocates and House supporters, it was universally believed that Ashe himself was the real problem. Then-Rep. Sam Young told VTDigger:
“It is one of those things that I haven’t confirmed it with Tim, but its something everyone knows … it is not coming up because of the pro tem.”
Ashe denied it, but Sam’s a straight shooter who did not pick needless fights or make shit up. And other people said the same thing. After a meeting with constituents who supported paid leave, according to one of the participants, Ashe rattled off a list of excuses not to approve it. He told them paid leave “would not be his main focus” in the session. He said a minimum wage hike would help more Vermonters, and paid leave wasn’t worth spending political capital on. He said he’d prefer a national paid leave program to a state program. And he questioned the House’s chosen funding mechanism.
Wow. For a guy who claims to have been all for paid leave, he sure did have a bucketful of reasons to block it. So now you know why Tim Ashe deleted that tweet. And why some people in #vtpoli don’t trust Ashe any farther than they can throw him.