Mutiny in the House?

Speaker Thom Tillis has been pushing the House through two weeks of midnight oil. Thursday night, his caucus pushed back.

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Edgar Starnes
Laura Leslie

Well, not quite. But close.

House Rules chair Tim Moore made a motion at about 10:55 Thursday night to adopt yet another supplemental calendar, adding three more pages of bills to vote on. Many would have had to have been voted on before midnight. 

House Finance chair Edgar Starnes had had enough. He formally objected to the motion, complaining about adding yet another raft of bills to the night’s work.

“Folks, we’re tired,” Starnes said. “We’re not in a position to think clearly and pass good legislation.”

Tillis told Starnes they would discuss the matter in caucus, and asked him to remove his objection.

“Did I understand you to say we’ll be going home about midnight?” Starnes persisted.

The chamber applauded.

This is highly unusual. Members of the minority sometimes complain on the floor about too many bills and too little time. But for a member of the leadership – Starnes – to publicly challenge his Speaker on the floor is something I’ve never seen before. It’s generally done in private.

To put this in context, the House has had two weeks of days that start early and end very late. They stayed after midnight Tuesday to override the governor’s veto, for no other reason than because caucus leaders wanted to.

As Speaker, Tillis has prized efficiency, which isn’t surprising given his background in management consulting. But he’s more familiar with the fast-paced private sector than the often deliberate legislature. For the most part, his caucus has gone along with it, though many are older, and some have medical challenges.

This time, however, may have been a bridge – or a calendar – too far.

After that caucus meeting, House lawmakers decided to come back to finish their work Friday, in daylight.

UPDATE:  House and Senate will both be back Friday daytime - and Saturday. 


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