The Senate's Republican leadership really did not like the Reproductive Parity Act, which died again Wednesday.
The Republican-oriented Majority Coalition Caucus voted down 25-23 Wednesday morning a minority Democratic attempt to attach the Reproductive Parity Act to a noncontroversial insurance bill. Majority Coalition Leader Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Medina, was one of the 25 despite personally supporting the Reproductive Parity Act.
This was a procedural vote. The strong unwritten rule in the Washington Legislature is people are supposed to vote their consciences on bills, but toe the party line on procedural matters.
And Republican Caucus Leader Mark Schoesler, R-Ritzville, reminded the Senate prior to the vote that this was a procedural matter. He made the same "this-is-a procedural-vote" announcement Tuesday prior to an unsuccessful Democratic attempt to revive the dead Reproductive Parity Act and Dream Act by the so-called Ninth Order parliamentary maneuver.
All 22 Republicans and two Democrats in the Majority Coalition Caucus who were present Wednesday voted against the motion to attach the act to a technical bill of insurance code fixes. The Reproductive Parity Act would order insurance companies who provide maternity-related insurance to also cover abortions, which is why the insurance bill was picked for the proposed amendment. Strong abortion opponent Sen. James Hargrove, D-Hoquiam, also voted against adding the amendment. Hargrove was also the minority Democrats' courtesy vote for an ill and missing Sen. Mike Carrell, R-Lakewood — another strong, unwritten legislative tradition.
Schoesler and Majority Floor Leader Sen. Joe Fain, R-Auburn, loudly objected five times on parliamentary protocol points before Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Kent, and Minority Leader Ed Murray, D-Seattle, completed their motion for permission to attach the Reproductive Parity Act to the insurance bill at 4:59 p.m. The cut-off time for non-budget bills to pass the House and Senate was 5 p.m. Wednesday.
Murray said the majority coalition told him that there are undefined ways to get a full floor vote on the Reproductive Parity Act without going through the Ninth Order. The Ninth Order allows 25 senators to revive a dead-in-committee bill before the full Senate. The vote to invoke the Ninth Order prior to a floor debate is considered a procedural move. Murray said the minority Democrats are trying to find one of the undefined ways to push those bills through that the majority coalition would theoretically allow.
Enough Republicans, plus Tom, are believed to be willing to vote for both bills to allow them to pass if they ever reach the Senate floor.
Murray also referred to the majority coalition being dominated by Republicans.
The House passed both bills. But the measures never got out of the appropriate Senate committees because two conservative chairwomen — Sen. Barbara Bailey, R-Oak Harbor, and Sen. Randi Becker, R-Eatonville — opposed the legislation and have the power to keep bills from leaving their committees.
Meanwhile, Sen. Tim Sheldon, D-Potlatch, said: "I object to the term 'Republican-controlled majority coalition.' ... It is not dominated by one particular party." Sheldon and Tom are the two Democrats who joined 23 Republicans to create the Majority Coalition Caucus.
Murray replied: "I believe I was describing reality, and I still have my First Amendment rights as a member of this body."
After the Senate's morning session, Tom said the Majority Coalition Caucus wants to focus on jobs, education and the budget as its reasons for rejecting efforts to send the Reproductive Parity Act and the DREAM Act to full floor votes -- despite their expected passages.
Tom said the majority coalition will not use the two dead bills as bargaining chips in budget negotiations with the Democratic-controlled House. He said only reform bills will be used as bargaining, and does not consider these two bills as reform legislation.
The DREAM Act would provide possible financial aid to children of undocumented immigrants who graduate from state high schools and want to apply to college. Murray said Democrats unsuccessfully hunted for a legally appropriate bill to have the DREAM Act attached as an amendment prior to Wednesday's deadline. The Democrats will still hunt for ways to revive it, he said.
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