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North Carolina Republicans voted to override a budget veto while Democrats were at a 9/11 ceremony

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 9/11/2019 Lateshia Beachum
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While North Carolina Democrats were remembering the lives lost on Sept. 11, 2001, their Republican colleagues took advantage of their absence and voted to override the governor’s budget veto Wednesday morning.

North Carolina House Republicans called for a “surprise vote” while Gov. Roy Cooper (D) and many House members were attending a 9/11 memorial event, Cooper said at a news conference.

“Today, on the 18th anniversary of 9/11, while the state was honoring first responders, Republicans called a deceptive surprise override of my budget veto,” Cooper said. “Unfortunately, it's the people of North Carolina who lose.”

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House Democratic leader Darren Jackson told reporters that he told his caucus members they didn’t need to be in attendance, and that state Rep. David Lewis (R) gave Jackson his word that there would be no votes, according to the News and Observer. Jackson said he wants Lewis, who is chairman of the Rules, Calendar and Operations Committee, to recall the veto before it reaches the Senate. 

Republicans were unable to override the veto for about two months — as long as Democrats were present in the chamber, Cooper said.

The House is allowed to conduct business as long as at least 61 of 120 members are present, according to the News and Observer. Because chambers of the General Assembly need a three-fifths majority to override a veto, there were enough Republicans available to make that happen.

Roy Cooper wearing a suit and tie looking at the camera: North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) (Gerry Broome/AP) North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D) (Gerry Broome/AP)

At 8:30 a.m., Democrats were told no votes would take place Wednesday, according to the News and Observer — something Republican House Speaker Tim Moore denies. After most of the Democrats left to attend the memorial event shortly before 9 a.m., according to the News & Observer, Rep. Jason Saine (R) made the motion to review the budget. According to the newspaper, Moore dismissed objections from the Democrats present.

The vote went ahead with 64 members present. The result was a veto override, 55 to 9.

“This is a tragedy. This is a travesty of the process, and you know it,” Rep. Deb Butler (D) screamed before the vote began. “Mr. Speaker, how dare you, Mr. Speaker!”

State Rep. Mary Belk (D) said at a news conference that Moore “kept talking over us. He turned off our mics,” the AP reported.

Democratic state Sen. Jeff Jackson called Republicans’ behavior “plainly unethical” in a tweet shortly after the override.

As Moore threatened to have Butler removed from the chamber, her Democratic colleagues surrounded her to prevent her arrest, according to CBS 17. Butler told Moore he would have to answer to the people of North Carolina.

“It’s a great day for North Carolina,” Moore told CBS 17.

Read more:

Democrats didn’t win in North Carolina’s special election, but here’s why they’re still celebrating

Why Trump cares so much about this special election in North Carolina

Why Democrats’ big gerrymandering win in North Carolina matters

The top five governor’s races of 2019 and 2020

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