Did Republicans really want to halt work in the special session today, go home and force yet another a special session – that Republicans could then blame on majority Democrats?
For a few moments earlier today, it perhaps looked that way. Senate lawmakers from both parties got their shorts in a royal twist late in the morning, and it looked for a while like there might be a roll call vote on whether to adjourn early for the holiday weekend.
And accusations flew.
Republican Sen. Mark Schoesler, alarmed by rumors his caucus could be subject to work on Easter Sunday, offered the motion to adjourn. But Democrats had beat him to the punch – in the judgment of Lt. Gov. Brad Owen, the presiding officer – by asking to put the chamber in recess for the purpose of a Ways and Means hearing that was scheduled for 1:30 p.m.
Owen put the motion on ice (although it could come up again later tonight or tomorrow).
Democrats reacted quickly and angrily to Schoesler’s motion. Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown said there was no plan to issue a “call of the Senate” for Sunday, which like a jury summons would require members to show up. But Brown said there is a specific plan for lawmakers to move bills from the budget committee this evening – and to consider voting on a budget agreement as well as reform bills Saturday.
Sen. Ed Murray, the Seattle Democrat who chairs Ways and Means, said the proposal to adjourn was – in effect – a call for a second special session. He said there is not time enough to wrap up negotiations, prepare bills, and finish voting in the Senate and House by Tuesday if lawmakers do not work into the weekend.
But Schoesler apparently was acting on his own, according to Sen. Linda Parlette, the Republican Caucus chair who is serving as acting Republican leader during Sen. Mike Hewitt’s convalescence from major surgery this week. Parlette said after the flare-up that the motion to adjourn was “a surprise to me” and wasn’t a planned caucus move.
Republican Sen. Joe Zarelli, who has been negotiating the budget, said that if Brown had told members earlier what she said on the Senate floor there would have been no reaction and no motion from Schoesler. Zarelli also said he saw no reason to keep working into the weekend without agreements on reforms.
Parlette said her plan is to keep working to pass a supplemental operating budget, a reform package and potentially a capital budget. If agreements are struck and staff can get the necessarily bill-preparation work done Saturday, “everybody would have Sunday off” and could come back Monday to finish up, Parlette said.
Brown has not ruled out meeting on Sunday, but Gov. Chris Gregoire said she won’t be around – if lawmakers do. That is because her family is participating in a Ronald McDonald benefit breakfast on Sunday and will be helping to cook the food, Gregoire said.
A few lawmakers say they have plans for Saturday, too. Republican Sen. Randi Becker of Eatonville said she has plans to attend her 94-year-old mother’s baptism into the Catholic faith on Saturday evening in Yakima, and Parlette said she wants to attend a baptism, too.
Today marks the start of Passover, and two Senate members who are Jewish have agreed to work this evening – forgoing their Passover meal with family, according to Murray. The two are Sen. David Frockt and Sen. Adam Kline, both Seattle Democrats.