Progress on an emergency measure to extend federal jobless benefits has been slowed by a parliamentary manuever, the latest move in a two-day game of political chess on Jones St.
It started last week, when state unemployment officials found out 37,000 jobless North Carolinians would lose their extended federal benefits unless lawmakers changed the formula used to calculate the state's eligibility for the benefits.
Wednesday, GOP leaders announced they would gut and amend a bill - H383 - to make the needed change. But they attached a provision to it that would give lawmakers the upper hand in budget negotiations with the governor.
The governor called it "extortion" yesterday, denouncing the GOP for using the jobless benefit bill for political gain. Democrats say it's political gamesmanship. But Republicans say it's prompted by Perdue's threats to veto their legislation.
The Senate passed H383 today along party lines. But Senate Minority Leader Martin Nesbitt told GOP leaders he would object if they tried to send the bill to the House by special messenger so it could be heard today. It would take a 2/3 vote to overrule Nesbitt's objection, and the GOP didn't have it.
So H383 was sent normally, which means the House won't receive the bill for consideration until the next legislative day, which would be tomorrow - or more likely, just after midnight tonight.
The deadline to make the legal change is Saturday, so lawmakers will have to stay here to pass it.
The Senate comes back from recess at 3pm. If Nesbitt lifts his objection, the bill could still move into the House today. Senate Democrats are in caucus now.
UPDATE: When the Senate reconvened, Senate Rules chair Tom Apodaca moved to send H383 by special messenger. Nesbitt did not voice an objection, so the midnight session is averted. H383 is headed into the House this afternoon.
Asked about the situation, Nesbitt was vague, saying only that he'd heard from House colleagues that they'd rather not stay till after midnight, given that the vote on the bill isn't really in doubt.