Midday Scan: The budget coup edition

Did Sen. Roach trade her budget vote for reentry into the Republican caucus? Was the Republican budget takeover payback for passing gay marriage? Will Rep. Kastama's crossover to vote with the GOP blow his chance at Secretary of State?

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Despite the looming government shutdown, not much happened in Olympia over the weekend.

Did Sen. Roach trade her budget vote for reentry into the Republican caucus? Was the Republican budget takeover payback for passing gay marriage? Will Rep. Kastama's crossover to vote with the GOP blow his chance at Secretary of State?

For any lawmaker, the central moral challenge is the "problem of dirty hands." Is it ever acceptable to barter with the devil (and, by extension, diminish the moral sphere) to achieve a greater political good? The dirty-hands question was thrown into relief in the post-9/11 era regarding the use of torture, undergirded by the scholarship of Michael Walzer

Which, naturally enough, brings us to state Sen. Pam Roach.

As the Seattle Times' Andrew Garber first reported, the renegade Republican says that her yes vote on the senate budget greased her acceptance back into the Republicans' decisionmaking fold. "Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, says she joined Republicans to seize control of the state Senate on Friday and pass a GOP budget partly in return for being allowed to rejoin the caucus," Garber writes. Roach was expelled from the Republican caucus two years ago for dressing down staff and fostering a hostile work environment.

Is Roach an example of conventional dealmaking or the problem of dirty hands? It depends on who you're asking. "She was admitted back to the caucus before she decided to be the 25th vote," Senate Republican leader Mike Hewitt told Garber.  

Was the Republican Senate budget payback for the marriage equality bill? The Stranger's Eli Sanders flags a remark by Sen. Hewitt in the Daily News that infers as much. In an editorial, the Daily News quotes the Republican leader, who said that the debate regarding marriage equality revolved around a redefinition of the term and "just wasted three weeks." And after those weeks, what better expression of independence than a palace revolt?  

"This year, they're doing everything by themselves" and wrangling over "moral issues," Hewitt told the paper. Ah, moral issues (see above, "the problem of dirty hands.") 

Democrats who bucked their party and supported the Republican budget are feeling political blowback. (Just as one party's Judas is another's maverick.) As the News Tribune reports, Democrat Jim Kastama is headwinding criticism just as he prepares (or, better yet, braces) for statewide office. 

"Kastama said some 7,000 emails, mostly negative form letters, have deluged his inbox, and he’s had threats of pulled support. He said his statewide bid for secretary of state is the last thing on his mind right now," Jordan Schrader writes. "But casting the deciding vote against his party — a vote that powered a coup the likes of which many lawmakers had never seen — won’t help when he returns to the campaign trail." 

All of these mavericks, from the well-intentioned to the self-regarding, are helping ensure a special legislative session. Or not. Lawmakers from both parties understand the public's slow burn over government inertia, and it's a feeling that gets magnified in an election year. The Olympian's Brad Shannon writes, "Thursday is the 60th and final day of this year’s legislative session, and a special session was looking like a foregone conclusion Monday. But some, like Democratic Sen. Karen Fraser of Thurston County, say miracles happen this time of year."

Alas, don't we usually have to wait until after Lent for those miracles? 

Lastly, as Walter Mondale said once, politicians either swell or they grow. Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski looks to be one of the growers. As the Anchorage Daily News' Julia O'Malley writes, "What Murkowski told me I already suspected. She's a moderate. She supports abortion rights and contraception coverage. She also doesn't line up completely with the Catholic Church when it comes to birth control. She regretted her recent vote."

Acknowledging a mistake and accepting responsibility? Bravo, Lisa Murkowski.  

Link Summary

Seattle Times, "Sen. Pam Roach says she was the 25th vote needed for GOP budget"

The Daily News, "Gimmicks, grousing in Legislature"

The News Tribune, "Sen. Kastama knows he'll likely pay for vote." 

The Olympian, "Lawmakers floating on bubble of special session"

Anchorage Daily News, "Murkowski regrets vote on contraception"


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About the Authors & Contributors

Peter Jackson

Peter Jackson

Peter Jackson is the former editorial-page editor of the Everett Herald. Follow him on Twitter @phardinjackson