It was a late night for state legislators as they haggled over how to spend our tax dollars.
The Washington Senate Democrats say their Republican colleagues purposely stacked the deck in passing the GOP’s 2015-2017 operating budget proposal. Why? To protect Sen. Andy Hill, R-Redmond, from having to cast embarrassing votes.
While he has not publicly talked of running, Hill's name has been circulated in political circles as a possible GOP candidate to face Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee in 2016.
Hill's potential career plans influenced Thursday's budget proceedings, a bitter and esoteric parliamentary battle between the 26 members of the Republican-dominated Senate Majority Coalition Caucus and the 23 Democratic senators.
Prior to debates on the amendments, the Majority Coalition's 25 Republicans, with their one Democratic ally installed a new rule, over the protests of Senate Democrats. That new rule, actually a revival of one killed in 2011, requires any amendment to the state's operating budget, transportation and capital budgets to pass by a 60 percent vote rather than a simple majority. That means the senate needs 30 votes instead of 25 to make any change in its budget proposal.
The rule was approved along a strict 26-23, caucus-line vote, with Hill joining the majority.
Meanwhile, the minority Democrats tried to add 51 amendments to the GOP-oriented budget proposal. (They withdrew several additional amendments prior to floor votes.) Only two of the 51 Democratic amendments broke the 30-vote mark. As a group, the Democrats had the parliamentary clout to force a roll call vote on each amendment — and they did on most.
Fifty-one is an excessively high number of amendments. It is possible that some of them were designed to paint Andy Hill into a few no-win corners.
Thirteen of the failed amendments were supported by simple majorities of the Senate, but fell short of the 30-vote threshold. That means some Republicans voted for them, and the amendments would have passed without the rule change.