Deb Butler (copy)

Rep. Deb Butler protests the budget override vote.

Have they no shame?

Republicans chose last week to override Gov. Roy Cooper’s budget veto by any means necessary. So they took a vote while nearly half of the members of the state House were absent.

The override was approved 55-9, over impassioned protests from the few Democrats who were there. That means only 55 out of 120 representatives passed the state’s two-year spending plan.

This is not how democracy is supposed to work. Instead of debate and compromise, Republicans elected to steamroll a vote in a Sept. 11 ambush.

Instead of open discussion, they chose trickery and deception.

What this means is that Medicaid expansion, which would have brought health care coverage to more than half a million North Carolinians who otherwise can’t afford it, has been stifled, yet again, for no good reason. If the GOP-dominated Senate also overrides the veto, it also will mean smaller raises for teachers and less funding for education needs, from kindergarten to college. Rep. Deb Butler, D-New Hanover, objected loudly in a more than seven-minute speech. When her microphone was turned off, she turned it back on. When it was turned off again, she grabbed another microphone. And then another. “This is a travesty of the process and you know it,” Butler said when the vote was called in the half-empty chamber. “We will not yield.”

Democrats say they had been told that there would be no vote Wednesday. House Speaker Tim Moore flatly denied that. But there clearly was confusion among both Democrats and Republicans. House Minority Leader Darren Jackson said he had been told by a Republican, House Rules Chairman David Lewis, that no voting would occur Wednesday. Lewis disputed that. But he did acknowledge that he had told a reporter at WRAL the same thing in a text message, the Raleigh television station reported.

As for Speaker Moore’s response? Loosely translated, it was “So what?”

“I made it clear that (if an opportunity to override Cooper’s veto arose) I’m going to do it,” he said.

So rather than a good-faith compromise, the Republicans chose a fake-out and an end-around. They rammed through the vote with only a handful of Democrats present.

Wednesday’s vote was legal even if it wasn’t right. The House only needs 61 votes for a quorum and it had 64.

Game over. Win at any cost. Trust and decency and fair play be damned.

To be sure, this is not the first time lawmakers have played musical chairs on key votes. In 2005, when Democrats were in charge, they waited until one Republican legislator was on his honeymoon and another was ill and in a hospital to slip through the vote approving the state lottery. But the scale of last week’s vote — and the accompanying confusion and allegations of deception — are deeply troubling. Ironically, it involves the same concept as the gerrymandered districts that a panel of state judges has ordered Republicans to fix: stacking the deck to rig a vote. Same principle. Different setting.

Now the state Senate must vote for the veto override to be complete. Senate leader Phil Berger, an Eden Republican, said Wednesday that no veto override vote was planned for this week. Obviously, you can trust him on that.

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