Schaufler joins Republicans in blowing up the 30-30 House

Kari Chisholm FacebookTwitterWebsite

When the 2010 elections left us with a 30-30 House, a bunch of folks - me, included - expected to see some serious procedural fireworks. I refreshed my memories of the post-1994 chaos that engulfed the 40-40 California Assembly, and lots of folks studied up on legislative procedure. It was going to be fun.

But in the 2011 session, co-Speakers Bruce Hanna and Arnie Roblan managed to keep things on an even keel. The Ds and Rs didn't agree on everything, but they kept the procedural gears moving forward. It was actually kind of boring, in a good way.

Those procedural gears came to a screeching halt this afternoon.

The occasion was a procedural vote over a key legislative priority - HB 4164, which would take the next step in setting up the health care exchanges envisioned by the national health reform law. The bill itself passed out of committee on an 8-0 vote.

With unananimous committee support and without opposition from any major stakeholder, it should have moved along smoothly to passage and then on to the Senate.

But it seems that Rep. Mike Schaufler (D-Happy Valley) decided that he'd throw a wrench in the works. Rather than moving the bill forward, he joined 30 Republicans in sending the bill off to Ways & Means, telling the Oregonian's Nick Budnick that "he wanted to make sure bills creating jobs, regarding timber and water policy, passed the House before the exchange does."

In other words, a classic legislative hostage-taking. It's a bill with bipartisan support, support from all the major stakeholders, a must-pass timing-wise, and a top priority of the Governor.

Key questions:

One thing's for sure - this legislative session just got a lot more interesting. And not in a good way.

There's more from the O's Harry Esteve, the AP's J.J. Cooper, and the Lund Report's Amanda Waldroupe.

Update: I was reminded by a friend that the vote was 31-28, not 31-29. Rep. Betty Komp (D-Woodburn) was out due to illness - and thus the Republican motion to send HB 4164 to Ways & Means would have passed with or without Schaufler. Which some might argue means that the Republicans own all the blame here. I'm not willing, however, to give Schaufler a pass here. If Komp had been present, I doubt he would have pulled back. (I have, however, updated the headline of this post to identify the joint culpability of the Republicans as well as Schaufler.)

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    Kari said: "It's a bill with bipartisan support"

    The bill failed 31-28.

    Please define "bipartisan support" (I'm not trying to be a troll, just trying to understand what I'm missing).

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    Two points about the process:

    1. I think it should be clarified for casual observers that the motion to send the bill back to Ways & Means was a procedural sidetrack -- not part of the usual process of an "up or down vote". So I think that's where the "bipartisan support" confusion came from. This was NOT the vote on whether or not the bill passed (but it is one of many ways to stymie a bill without an "up-or-down-vote").

    2. If I understand that motion correctly, it's irrelevant that Komp was out; the motion to send the bill to Ways & Means was a question that still required 31 votes to pass.

    Disclaimer: I work for the State Treasury, but my opinions in this particular comment are entirely my own.

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    Kari, in your post you quote the obstructionist as saying, "he wanted to make sure bills creating jobs, regarding timber and water policy, passed the House before the exchange does." So, my question is does this legislation mirror that being pushed by Greg Walden in the US House. And why can not the democrats get organized the way that the thuguglycons are?

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    I would like clarification. Is this motion on behalf of both the Republicans and Schaufler just a negotiating tool to gain leverage or are they trying to sink the bill? I realize there may be some who want to kill it, but are the votes there to pass it on principle if they get their way on other issues?

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      That's my understanding. Presumably, the 28 votes on this motion would be joined by at least the 4 Rs that voted for it in committee. So yes, it's going to pass if it gets a vote.

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        Hi Kari, you presume too much. It's a classic legislative trick to vote "in favor" of a popular bill you oppose, and then ensure in other ways for the bill to be killed so you don't take the blame.

        This has that stench. Limiting medical damages was rejected by voters in initiative form, so there is no reason why Democrats should be expected to vote for it now.

        But if this poison pill doesn't work, then legislators who pretend support will suddenly show their true colors. Anything that helps the middle class or small businesses at the expense of their campaign contributors is likely to be ultimately rejected.

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          Steven, I think you're confusing two bills. The one that has had the medmal controversy is the one moving over in the Senate, not this one moving through the House.

          I do agree that legislative games get played all the time, but it's been widely reported (and I've been told by numerous inside-the-building sources) that this House bill is expected to pass by a wide margin.

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      Thank you, Jim, for that clear concise explanation about how reducing health care costs does create jobs.

      Just about every problem we face in this city, state, and country (and in our businesses and nonprofits) is a health care cost problem. As health care costs have exceeded inflation (and thus personal and business income) for years and years, health care is consuming every dollar in sight.

      I've never understood why Republicans in Congress opposed a policy that would reduce government spending, boost business productivity, and create room to lower taxes.

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        Hey Kari, Actually Republican leaders at one time did support in large measure what the Obama administration and Congress has enacted in Obamacare. First, in the early 90's, as a counter proposal to "HillaryCare", and then, most notably, in MA as RomneyCare". It seems to me their refusal to support health care reform at this time has absolutely nothing to do with the best, most effective policy for the country and everything to do with political power for themselves. I can't think of another logical explanation, can you?

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    I have no insights into Mike Schaufler, but regarding your questions about Republican motives, here are a couple of thoughts:

    1) They & their constituents probably have genuine interests in the timber and water issues, though I suspect that's not only about jobs.

    2) They like issues that can be framed as rural vs. Portland / "urban liberal" and that appear to drive a wedge between job creation and ecological sustainability.

    3) They don't mind ankle-biting the local implementation of PPACA, and some may positively want to do that, since at a national level the Rs are running on repealing it, and the question of how the Supreme Court will rule on the individual mandate is still open.

    The last point may explain why they are willing to run a risk of having the Feds step in to impose an Exchange if the Oregon effort fails. Oregon's Exchange process was set in motion substantially before PPACA even passed, and in general the Rs say they favor making social policy at state and local levels, so on the face of it sabotaging the Oregon process seems perverse. But it's possible to imagine some Rs at least doing so as part of a wider strategy of trying to hamper and obstruct PPACA in order to bring about its repeal.

    These motives are what academics would call "overdetermined" -- they are more than is necessary to explain things, but may all be true simultaneously, though not necessarily all held at once by given persons. There is a surfeit of explanations.

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