In vain we proudly fightFor all of the talk in some quarters about some kind of newfound Republican unity in the face of the intransigence of the majority in the Tennessee House of Representatives, the ball got dropped to a point as the Governor's tobacco tax proposal, complete with Rosalind Kurita's additional two cents on cigarettes (making it a total of a 42 cent increase) passed the House 59-35 last night.
That the cigarette tax hike passed is not a surprise, and that some Republicans (even a couple of the anti-Naifeh camp) voted in favor is also not a real shock. What was disappointing was the failure of the filibuster to continue to push and fight for the Hawk Amendment, or to push for any of the amendments brought forward, including another Hawk Amendment to offer a tiny portion of this tax increase to our wounded Iraq War veterans.
To be fair, there were great efforts by certain members of the Caucus to fight for tax relief and for fiscal responsibility. Beth Harwell put forward an amendment to reduce the tax on food. Frank Niceley made a short but (as usual) street-wise and brilliant address to the House about how the tax increase is not only unneeded but acts as social engineering-discouraging people from smoking. Indeed, if it does this successfully, it takes away the source of funding in the bill.
Several amendments were brought forward and all were brought to the table in the end. Effort after effort was made to make this tax increase and the budget fiscally responsible (and Leader Mumpower pushed for a reduction in the food tax from 6% to 5.5%-or at least maintaining language that allowed for legislative intent when Gary Odom moved to withdraw it). Every time the Republicans tried to do something responsible, Odom played Stupid and simply said that the Republicans were trying to kill the bill in the Senate. Republicans do not automatically have the 17th vote to kill the bill in the Senate, but Odom left that part out of his side of the discussion.
Harwell tried, Mumpower tried, Campfield tried, Bill Dunn tried, and David Hawk tried. We know that a party has been in power too long when any form of legislative modification or serious debate is labeled as "partisan" in a constant way. It is not mere partisanship to debate and offer real alternatives to what is being presented-that is the job of an effective opposition, and would be the Democrats' job were the roles reversed. It is partisan to defeat those things based on almost irrational fears after publicly saying you are in favor of some of those proposals, which is what many Democrats are doing.
Since the majority refuses to listen to reason, it would have been fine to use every delaying tactic known to man. We know that Democrats were tiring because Rob Briley wanted to close debate and demanded Calendar and Rules meet. Microphones were on and you could hear Briley complaining about "partisan speeches" and "Mumpower tricking you (unseen Representative) into signing that amendment" in the silence like he is a whiny spoiled child. To end the filibuster the Democrats called a Calendar and Rules Committee Meeting in the well in a highly unorthodox and questionable maneuver. The filibuster was working, the Democrats knew it, and they knew they didn't have the votes on the floor to end debate-so they called a committee meeting right in the well!
I'd question the Democrats' motives for simply labeling everyone's objections as partisan, but of course how dare I question the Majority Leadership...that would make me too partisan.
Labels: Tennessee politics