Monday, October 2, 2017

Democrats engage in GROUPTHINK!

Weekly Opinion Editorial
Fractured Caucus!

by Steve Fair

     The special session of the Oklahoma legislature is on hold.  After it was determined the state House would not have the votes to pass the $1.50 cigarette tax by a 75% majority, Speaker of the House Charles McCall, (R-Atoka) said the session would be halted.  "We have our members lined up to support this measure on the floor vote. However, we do not have a commitment or confirmation from the minority Democratic Party of the House that they will deliver 75 percent of their caucus to pass this measure," McCall told The Oklahoman.  Seventy-six votes are needed to satisfy the constitutional requirement of a revenue bill passing both chambers with a 75% margin.  There are currently 72 Republicans and 28 Democrats in the House.  There is one vacant House seat that will be filled in a special election on November 14th, most likely with a Republican.  So instead of taking a vote he knew would fail, McCall suspended the special session

     If McCall was able to get the entire GOP caucus to support the tax increases (and he can’t), he would still fall four votes short of a supermajority.  Some Democrats must join the Rs to get over the ¾ line and Minority leader Rep. Scott Inman, (D-Midwest City) is using that leverage.  Inman said, "They told us for weeks that they (House Republicans) had a plan. And we asked for it; it was never presented to us. And finally, today, when they had their opportunity to roll out their plan to balance to budget, increase funding for core services, they punted.” Inman is an announced candidate for the Democrat nomination for governor.

     The special session is there to consider how to fill the $215 budget hole created when the Supreme Court said the cigarette tax was a new tax and had to clear the ¾ majority threshold.  Inman and his caucus have vowed to not vote for the cigarette tax without the Rs supporting raising the gross production tax and giving raises to Oklahoma teachers. Three observations:

     First, Democrats stick together better than Republicans. Perhaps it’s just the nature of the beast, but Republicans don’t work and play well with each other.  McCall has to keep the libertarians, conservatives and the moderates pulling on the same end of the rope at the same time and not wrapping it around each other’s necks.  

     Second, the D’s solidarity illustrates how wrong people are when they say: “I vote for the man, not the Party.”  Business in a legislative body is conducted via the Party caucus system. In reality, they are voting for a Party, not just the man.    
     Third, this illustrates the importance of effective infrastructure within the Republican Party.  In the past year, Oklahoma Democrats have flipped three state legislative seats from R to D.  In every one of those races, GOP voter turnout has been dismal.  Without grassroots infrastructure, Republicans can expect to continue to lose elections.

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