Jim Walsh speaks on the floor of the Washington State House of Representatives
Jim Walsh speaks on the floor of the Washington State House of Representatives (House Republican Caucus Photo)

Over the past few days, as the Wash­ing­ton State House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives has worked earnest­ly to con­sid­er and vote out leg­is­la­tion ahead of today’s house of ori­gin cut­off, it has become appar­ent that State Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Jim Walsh (R‑19th Dis­trict) has a fright­en­ing anger man­age­ment problem.

Wal­sh’s col­leagues have come to expect bom­bast from him when he speaks from the floor. But on sev­er­al recent occa­sions, includ­ing last Fri­day, his angry tirades have become more than a nui­sance. They have brought the House­’s work to a halt.

Wal­sh’s repeat­ed inabil­i­ty to com­ply with the House­’s rules has left Speak­er Pro Tem John Lovick (who shares pre­sid­ing duties in the cham­ber with fel­low Speak­er Pro Tem Tina Orwall) with no choice but to gav­el him out of order and then to call the House into recess when Walsh would not stop yelling over the gavel.

On Fri­day, March 8th, the House was in the midst of an exten­sive debate on HB 1523, intend­ed to increase the avail­abil­i­ty of qual­i­ty, afford­able health cov­er­age in the indi­vid­ual mar­ket. The bill is part of a push by Demo­c­ra­t­ic law­mak­ers, as well as Gov­er­nor Jay Inslee, to offer prac­ti­cal leg­is­la­tion for a pub­lic option plan for those who buy insur­ance on Washington’s Health Ben­e­fit Exchange.

Sup­port­ers of the bill, includ­ing House lead­er­ship, believe it will help low­er health care costs in the state by requir­ing three stan­dard­ized plans be avail­able on the exchange, while oppo­nents of the bill claim it will in fact increase costs.

Cur­rent­ly, Wash­ing­ton res­i­dents com­pare and buy indi­vid­ual health cov­er­age through pri­vate car­ri­ers on the Exchange. Under HB 1523, the Exchange would work with the state insur­ance com­mis­sion­er, the Wash­ing­ton Health Care Author­i­ty, and oth­ers, to cre­ate three oth­er stan­dard­ized plans.

Begin­ning in 2021, at least two of the stan­dard­ized plans would have to be offered through avail­able car­ri­ers, in addi­tion to the oth­ers they nor­mal­ly offer.

The bill might seem fair­ly mun­dane to an out­side observer.

Jim Walsh sees it very differently.

“This bill isn’t social­ized med­i­cine, this bill is the train wreck that comes first, and then there’s social­ized med­i­cine,” he thun­dered after being rec­og­nized to speak.

“In my dis­trict we’ve suf­fered from [the Patient Pro­tec­tion and Afford­able Care Act] and all its emp­ty promis­es of being able to keep your posi­tion and cov­er­age. We’ve lived through the pain of see­ing that you don’t get to keep your posi­tion, because the physi­cians all move away,” he yelled. “These pro­grams are designed to strip rur­al Wash­ing­ton of its health­care choic­es. This is not the way to reform, in any ratio­nal sense, our health­care deliv­ery sys­tem. We all want that. We want a sys­tem that can deliv­er good qual­i­ty care to every­one in the state.”

He went on to insin­u­ate that the bill would strip fund­ing from Medicare and oth­er cur­rent insur­ance options of rur­al Washingtonians.

“[The Patient Pro­tec­tion Act] was a fail­ure,” he bellowed.

“This social­ized med­i­cine mélange will be a fail­ure and frankly, I don’t think it’s an unin­tend­ed con­se­quence, Mr. Speak­er. I think this is designed.”

Short­ly after Walsh made these com­ments, the House was tem­porar­i­ly gaveled into recess due to Walsh’s vio­la­tion of Chap­ter XIII of Reed’s Par­lia­men­tary Rules.

Sec­tion 226 of this chap­ter of Reed’s Rules, titled Pun­ish­ment, states:

The pun­ish­ment which can be inflict­ed depends upon the char­ac­ter of the assem­bly, and is in legal assem­blies usu­al­ly lim­it­ed by law. In vol­un­tary assem­blies it may be cen­sure, rep­ri­mand, or expul­sion, or a demand for apol­o­gy on pain of expul­sion. It almost always hap­pens, when atten­tion is called to the unsuit­able nature of the words used by the mem­ber, or the acts per­formed by him, that he makes such an expla­na­tion or retrac­tion as enables the assem­bly to excuse him and go on with its business.

By call­ing into ques­tion the motives of the bil­l’s authors and fail­ing to observe prop­er deco­rum on the floor, Walsh was in clear vio­la­tion of the House­’s rules of debate.

At that point, Speak­er Pro Tem Lovick cut Wal­sh’s mic, caus­ing the audio feed being trans­mit­ted to TVW to imme­di­ate­ly cease, before Walsh’s tem­per reached its peak.

In accor­dance with its pro­ce­dures, at the time Wal­sh’s mic was cut by Lovick, TVW (Wash­ing­ton’s equiv­a­lent of C‑SPAN) ceased to show Walsh speak­ing and instead switched to a cam­era point­ed at the ros­trum. The sub­se­quent video shows Lovick repeat­ed­ly bang­ing his gav­el, with Walsh now off-screen and unheard.

Accord­ing to sources who were in the cham­ber, Walsh con­tin­ued shout­ing over the gav­el as the mic was cut and his access to TVW’s view­ing audi­ence terminated.

When the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives resumed its work a short time lat­er, the bill passed eas­i­ly and was sent to the Sen­ate for fur­ther consideration.

The roll call was a par­ty line vote, as follows:

Roll Call
HB 1523
Indi­vid­ual health ins market
Final Passage

Yeas: 57; Nays: 41

Vot­ing Yea: Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Apple­ton, Bergquist, Blake, Callan, Chap­man, Cody, Davis, Doglio, Dolan, Enten­man, Fey, Fitzgib­bon, Frame, Good­man, Gregerson, Hansen, Hud­gins, Jink­ins, Kil­duff, Kir­by, Klo­ba, Leav­itt, Lekanoff, Lovick, Macri, Mead, Mor­gan, Mor­ris, Orms­by, Ortiz-Self, Orwall, Paul, Pel­lic­ciot­ti, Peter­son, Pet­ti­grew, Pol­let, Ramos, Reeves, Ric­cel­li, Robin­son, Ryu, San­tos, Sells, Senn, Shew­make, Slat­ter, Springer, Stan­ford, Stonier, Sul­li­van, Tar­leton, Thai, Tharinger, Valdez, Walen, Wylie, Chopp

Vot­ing Nay: Rep­re­sen­ta­tives Barkis, Boehnke, Caldier, Cham­bers, Chan­dler, Cor­ry, DeBolt, Dent, Dufault, Dye, Eslick, Gildon, Goehn­er, Gra­ham, Grif­fey, Har­ris, Hoff, Irwin, Jenkin, Klip­pert, Kraft, Kretz, MacEwen, May­cum­ber, McCaslin, Mos­bruck­er, Orcutt, Rude, Schmick, Shea, Smith, Steele, Stokes­bary, Suther­land, Van Wer­ven, Vick, Volz, Walsh, Wilcox, Ybar­ra, Young

Sources tell NPI that late Tues­day evening, Walsh again behaved inap­pro­pri­ate­ly and failed to fol­low the rules of debate on the House floor. Wal­sh’s repeat­ed fail­ure to fol­low House rules could result in pun­ish­ment being imposed by his cau­cus or by the entire nine­ty-eight mem­ber House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives… or both.

This is a devel­op­ing story. 

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