Gov. Roy Cooper wants a court to decide that one of his appointees doesn’t have to appear in a state Senate confirmation hearing until a dispute over the confirmation process is resolved.
Cooper’s attorneys filed a motion in Wake County Superior Court on Friday asking for modification of a subpoena that was issued a day earlier by the Senate demanding Military and Veterans Affairs Secretary Larry Hall show up to answer questions on Thursday.
The motion asks that if the three-judge panel assigned to the case determines the Senate has the authority to approve or reject the governor’s executive branch executives, that Hall not be required to appear until five days after Cooper formally submits the names of all his Cabinet nominees. That would delay Hall’s confirmation hearing until after judges are due to consider the dispute in a March 7 court hearing.
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If the court finds the Senate doesn’t have that authority, then the motion asks that the subpoena be quashed.
“The Senate continues to go against the wishes of the court and ignore its previous order, so we’re asking the court to step in and halt this unprecedented event,” Cooper spokeswoman Noelle Talley said in a statement on Friday. “Instead of partisan power grabs, legislators need to focus on North Carolina’s real priorities like repealing HB2 and raising teacher pay.”
Cooper, a Democrat, is suing the Republican legislative leadership over a law enacted in December making the governor’s Cabinet appointments subject to Senate approval, which has not been the practice. Cooper and lawmakers differ on whether the state Constitution gives the Senate that authority.
Last week one of the judges found that the new law does give the Senate that authority, and declined to block them from proceeding. But the judge also found that the nomination period hasn’t begun until the governor submits the names of his nominees, which he hasn’t done formally. Senate Republicans say he has submitted their names: The eight appointed so far are on the job getting paid, and have been described in various documents as being Cooper’s new department heads.
The seemingly contradictory aspects of the judge’s order has given both sides ammunition to continue the fight.
“It is absurd that Roy Cooper continues to make the case that his cabinet secretaries — who have taken their oaths of office, go by the title of ‘secretary,’ collect six-figure paychecks and have hired their own deputies — are somehow not nominated,” Senate Leader Phil Berger said in a statement released Friday. “The legislature would never tell a witness not to appear to testify in court, so we hope the court would not tell a witness not to testify when subpoenaed by the legislature.”
Cooper’s attorneys also argue in their motion that the legislative subpoena, issued Thursday after Hall declined to appear before a committee three times, is defective because it conflicts with the judge’s order and isn’t authorized by law.