Butler_966 from John Autry on Vimeo.

On Tuesday morning, while Governor Cooper attended a ceremony remembering the victims of the 9/11 attacks, House Republicans unexpectedly voted to override Cooper’s budget veto, taking advantage of Democratic absences to claim the supermajority they needed. 

As Speaker Tim Moore attempted to call the vote during the 8:30 a.m. session—during which Democrats say they were told no votes would be taken—Wilmington Demoract Deb Butler stood up in a fury, lambasting Moore as a coward. Of the 120 House members, 64 were in attendance; only 9 of them were Democrats.  

“How dare you subject this body to trickery, deceptive practices, hijacking the process,” Butler shouted. “It is so typical of the way you conduct yourself. How dare you, Mr. Speaker? If this is the way you believe democracy works, shame on you.” 

A vote to override Cooper’s veto on the budget had been on the calendar since July, but Republicans, who lost their supermajority in last November’s elections, lacked the votes. That has left the budget in a months-long standoff, with Cooper insisting that Medicaid expansion be included in a budget deal, and Republicans refusing to budge. More recently, the House and Senate have passed pieces of the budget raises wages for some state workers, which Cooper has signed, but the larger budget remained deadlocked. 

To win the budget war without compromising on Medicaid, Moore needed to pull a stunt. He found an opportunity moments before the eighteenth anniversary of when terrorists flew the first plane into the North Tower of New York’s World Trade Center. 

The vote passed 55–9 along party lines. It must now clear the Senate, where Republicans also lack a supermajority—and where, presumably, Democrats will no longer take Republican leaders at their word. 

The North Carolina Association of Educators, a Democratic ally, blasted the Republicans’ “unbelievably deceitful conduct.” 

“By playing underhanded political games in an attempt to win at all costs, they are subverting the democratic process and destroying whatever shred of trust remained between Republicans and the people of North Carolina,” NCAE president Mark Jewell said in a statement.

This isn’t the first time Republicans in the General Assembly have subverted the democratic process to gain power. 

The members of the legislature were elected in districts that a Wake County Superior Court ruled last week were unconstitutional partisan gerrymanders. This followed previous federal court decisions that held that the legislative districts drawn in 2011, after the Republicans gained power, were unconstitutional racial gerrymanders. The General Assembly declined to appeal the Superior Court’s decision to the state Supreme Court and is now in the process of redrawing the districts—ostensibly in a transparent, nonpartisan manner, although lawmakers may simply be trolling the court

“You wait until a moment when you suggest there will be no votes,” Butler shouted at Moore this morning, refusing to yield the floor. “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.”

She continued: “At this moment in time, you are doing the unspeakable. Is this the legacy you want?”

Contact staff writer Leigh Tauss at ltauss@indyweek.com. 

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