RALEIGH, N.C. — A half-empty North Carolina House chamber has voted to override Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper's veto of the state's two-year budget.
The unexpected vote on Wednesday morning came as dozens of Democrats weren't on the House floor. Republicans leaders have been trying for over two months to locate enough votes to meet the threshold for an override, largely through winning over enough Democrats. But the same result occurred because Democrats opposed to the budget weren't at their seats.
The override isn't complete — the Senate still must hold a vote on the issue, but Republicans would only need one Democrat there to secure victory.
Wednesday's vote came as lawmakers have focused this week on redrawing legislative maps following a court ruling striking down dozens of them due to extreme partisan bias.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper says Republican House members "waged an assault on our democracy" with their surprise vote to override his budget veto.
The Democratic governor held a news conference on Wednesday, hours after the unexpected call for a vote by House Speaker Tim Moore. The override still must be successful in the Senate, but the House was always the greater obstacle for GOP leaders in a 2½-month budget stalemate.
Barely one-third of the House Democrats were on the chamber floor. Democrats said they had been told that no recorded votes would be taken Wednesday morning. Cooper said "this was a lie." Several House Democrats screamed at Moore on the floor as he pushed through the override vote.
Cooper urged Senate Democrats to stay united and uphold his veto. He said Wednesday's "fiasco" has destroyed the trust he could have with House Republican leaders.
North Carolina House Republican leaders say they never made any announcement or decision that would have prevented the chamber from voting to override Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper veto of the state budget bill.
Speaker Tim Moore and one of his top lieutenants held a news conference hours after their chamber held an unexpected and successful override vote Wednesday. Very few Democrats appeared when the morning floor session began. That's because they say they were told there would be no recorded votes during that session.
Rules Committee Chairman David Lewis says he never told any legislator that no recorded votes would occur. But House Democratic Leader Darren Jackson said he remembers hearing differently from Lewis.
Moore says there was no scheming Wednesday to create the opportunity for an override. But he's said repeatedly that he would act if circumstances presented themselves.
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We spoke with local Democratic state Representative Pricey Harrison. She says today's move has severed any trust that House Democrats had with Republicans. "I was working from home on a redistricting situation and just reviewing case law and stuff. Many of my colleagues were attending other matters including 9/11 memorials. So when the speaker took advantage of the absence of democrats to run the veto override vote. I think many of us were really taken aback by the trickery and chicanery," she said.
Harrison says some of her colleagues had even come back early from cancer surgery to be present for voting so they would have been there if they knew the vote was happening.