Republicans in the North Carolina House of Representatives stunned their Democratic colleagues on Wednesday by holding a surprise vote and passing a controversial budget while many of its members were absent.
The Republicans overrode Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of the state budget with a 55-9 vote, while colleagues were absent from the floor during a 9/11 memorial ceremony.
To override a governor’s veto, the Republicans needed to secure a three-fifths majority vote among those present. Local news outlets reported that Republicans in the state had been trying for months to override Cooper’s veto, and seized an opportunity on a morning typically set aside to honor the 2,977 people killed on the 9/11 attacks 18 years ago.
It remains unclear where Democrats were during the vote and how many were attending commemoration ceremonies in districts around the state, but The News & Observer reported that only one Democrat did so. Cooper also said he was at a memorial event but didn’t know if other members were present.
Democrats also said they were tricked by Republicans into believing there would be no vote in their absence. House Minority Leader Darren Jackson said at a press conference that the House Rules chairman told him the chamber would hold no recorded votes on the floor until 1 p.m.
‘You are making a mockery of this process’
Cooper told reporters in a press conference Wednesday that Republicans’ move was “a true assault on our democracy. There is no question about it.”
He said voters should be “outraged that this Republican leadership would orchestrate such deception, such trickery in order to get their way.”
Reports quickly surfaced on social media of chaos on the House floor, as Democrats shouted at their Republican colleagues for the move. Rep. Deb Butler, a Democrat who was present for the vote, could be heard condemning the Republican House Speaker Tim Moore.
“How dare you do this, Mr. Speaker,” Butler said. “Mr. Speaker, you are making a mockery of this process, you are deceiving all of North Carolina. Your leadership is an embarrassment to the history of this great state.”
Butler later told reporters she was threatened with arrest, the NBC affiliate WRAL reported, though the House Sergeant at Arms denied any threats were made.
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