Ed Orcutt speaking on House floor
Ed Orcutt speaking on House floor

This morn­ing, just pri­or to the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives’ adjourn­ment for the day, Repub­li­can State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Ed Orcutt of Kala­ma attempt­ed to fast-track a res­o­lu­tion that would amend the Wash­ing­ton State Con­sti­tu­tion to require a two-thirds vote to raise or recov­er any rev­enue, as fer­vent­ly desired and demand­ed by Muk­il­teo-based ini­tia­tive prof­i­teer Tim Eyman.

Ris­ing dur­ing the fourth order of busi­ness, after the House had adopt­ed 2SHB 1737, Orcutt (R‑20th Dis­trict) moved to sus­pend House rules and advance his HJR 4215 to sec­ond read­ing, which would mean bypass­ing the com­mit­tee process alto­geth­er. Orcutt then pro­ceed­ed to deliv­er a speech in favor of his motion, in which he recit­ed sev­er­al of Tim Eyman’s favorite talk­ing points.

House Major­i­ty Leader Pat Sul­li­van (D‑47th Dis­trict) rose in response, and urged a no vote, not­ing that the com­mit­tee process is where bills and res­o­lu­tions alike go to be dis­cussed, amend­ed, and refined. Ini­tia­tives like Tim Eyman’s uncon­sti­tu­tion­al I‑1366, Sul­li­van not­ed, do not go through the Leg­is­la­ture’s delib­er­a­tive com­mit­tee process, which essen­tial­ly serves as a fil­ter to weed out leg­is­la­tion that is poor­ly craft­ed, not ready for prime­time, or sim­ply a bad idea to begin with.

The House then vot­ed forty-eight to forty-nine not to adopt Orcut­t’s motion.

“Hav­ing failed to receive the nec­es­sary two-thirds vote, your motion fails,” House Speak­er Pro Tem Jim Moeller declared to Orcutt and the House as a whole.

Orcut­t’s res­o­lu­tion was then referred to House Finance with­out objection.

The roll call vote has­n’t been post­ed, but it looks like it was a par­ty-line vote. The House has fifty Demo­c­ra­t­ic mem­bers, and one of them was excused at the time of the vote. The Repub­li­can cau­cus cur­rent­ly con­sists of forty-eight members.

No doubt Repub­li­cans planned this vote as a test to see if any Democ­rats would capit­u­late, and to com­pile attack fod­der for the com­ing 2016 elections.

Kudos to the Democ­rats for stick­ing togeth­er and stand­ing up to this non­sense. If our cher­ished tra­di­tion of major­i­ty rule is to sur­vive, it must be defended.

Arti­cle II, Sec­tion 22 of our Con­sti­tu­tion says that bills pass by major­i­ty vote. That means fifty of nine­ty-eight in the House and and twen­ty-five of forty-nine in the Sen­ate must vote aye. No more, and no less.

This pro­vi­sion of our Con­sti­tu­tion dates back to state­hood. To sab­o­tage it now would upset the bal­ance of major­i­ty rule and minor­i­ty rights that our Founders entrust­ed to us. It would be a ter­ri­ble thing to do.

Shame on Ed Orcutt and his Repub­li­can col­leagues for attempt­ing to sub­vert major­i­ty rule. They should remem­ber what hap­pened last year in the Sen­ate, when Repub­li­cans set them­selves up for fail­ure by unwise­ly chang­ing Sen­ate rules to require a two-thirds vote to advance cer­tain rev­enue bills… only to find them­selves imped­ed by their own rules change a few weeks lat­er when they want­ed to pass a trans­porta­tion rev­enue bill. (Hap­pi­ly, Lieu­tenant Gov­er­nor Brad Owen came to their res­cue and struck down their two-thirds scheme.)

If Repub­li­cans ever get the major­i­ty back in the House, they’re going to want to be able to pass bills and bud­gets on their own, with­out Democ­rats being able to veto their every move. They should be more proac­tive with their imag­i­na­tions and con­tem­plate the shoe being on the oth­er foot.

Major­i­ty rule is good for Democ­rats and Repub­li­cans alike. This truth is some­thing that the elder states­men of their par­ty — peo­ple like Sam Reed, Ralph Munro, and Dan Evans — under­stand. Why don’t Orcutt and his col­leagues get it?

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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