It has to rank as one of the most petty, childish and irresponsible maneuvers since Republicans took control of the General Assembly after the 2010 elections.
Just past 3 a.m. Friday, state Senate Republicans passed a bill providing more funding for pilot programs combating the opioid epidemic. No doubt Republicans are concerned about the problem, but the real purpose of the budget amendment introduced by GOP Sen. Brent Jackson of Autryville seems to have been to teach the Democrats a lesson.
Democrats had prolonged the session in the view of Republicans by introducing amendments to the budget, which were repeatedly shot down.
So Republicans called for a recess. And things stopped in the wee morning for two hours. Then the session resumed around 3 a.m., and lo and behold, the opioid amendment was passed.
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But Republicans must have laughed to themselves. For the money for their proposal came out of education programs in the districts of Senate Democrats. Money came out of early college high schools, and out of a summer science, math and technology program in Northhampton County that helped many students, including many African-American students. The same amendment also removed Democratic counties from a program that offers stipends to teachers’ assistants who are trying to get college degrees to get teaching licenses.
Also on the chopping block: more staff for the N.C. Museum of Art and for a downtown revitalization program. That program still will help Robeson County, which has a Republican senator.
Well, we guess those Republicans showed the Democrats, right?
Yes, they showed them just how low they can go, just how much they’ll abuse their power in order to indulge in a political tantrum.
This was ridiculous, nothing less. Education programs? Teachers assistants trying to be teachers? Really?
Phil Berger, president pro-tem of the Senate, showed his weakness, not his strength, in allowing this kind of childishness. And in the process, he offered not an example of Republicans using their muscle, but of their need to use petty, late-night maneuvers to punish the Democrats for holding up the budget.
Yes, the Democrats were engaged in a futile exercise. Their minority in the upper chamber is essentially powerless, and they’re not going to be able to change what is indeed a pitiful budget that helps the wealthy and business with tax cuts and invests little in North Carolina’s future.
But that doesn’t mean they ought to roll over or simply give in to the playground bully. They have a duty to represent their constituents and to be heard.
Whether Republicans know it or not, of course, they played into the hands of their opponents by targeting among others the defenseless — kids and teaching assistants. Surely that’s not going to play so well in the next campaign.
Given the power they possess, Republicans don’t need to engage in this kind of behavior. They have the votes and the control to do as they wish. But in this case, they made very bad choices.