It's almost as if Senate President Peter Bragdon can't find enough raw steaks to put over the black eyes House Speaker Bill O'Brien has given the Republican Party this legislative session. As soon as the House passes bills which we become convinced will never stand up with gubernatorial vetoes, along comes the Senate and prevents the bills from even getting to the governor.
Yes, it's true; the Senate is blocking the O'Brien agenda, almost as if the Senate is ashamed of what the House has done, almost as if the Senate is trying to signal to the electorate, "Don't blame us for what the O'Brienites are forcing through the House."
Unfortunately for incumbent Republican senators, it may not be quite that simple.
Even as Republican senators strive mightily to distance themselves from O'Brien's silliness, one cannot be sure the voters won't turn Republican senators out just as quickly as they do Republican House members.
Thus, a new dynamic in play at the State House.
It's called--how far can we get away from Bill O'Brien.
With that in mind and soas not to waste either my or your time any more, I am putting my series "Veto Watch" on hold. This week, I spent a good deal of time and effort pointing out how two abortion bills (HB 1659 requiring a 24 hour wait and HB1660 prohibiting abortions after 20 weeks) would most likely not receive the two-thirds in the House to become law.
Today, I pick up the paper and find that a Senate committee has effectively killed both bills. By a 3-2 vote, HB 1659 was recommended inexpedient to legislate, and by a similar 3-2 vote HB 1660 was recommended for interim study (another way of killing a bill for the current year, sort of like death with dignity).
True, committee recommendations could be overturned on the Senate floor next week, but that's not likely to happen. Unlike House Speaker Bill O'Brien who has lost all control of what happens on the House floor, Peter Bragdon appears to have firm control of his senators.
For that reason, this blog's Veto Watch feature will not appear again until bills get out of the Senate and on to the governor's desk. Apparently, there won't be nearly as many of them as we all had thought because the Senate appears destined to kill (or study) any bill which would lack enough votes for a gubernatorial over-ride (16--in other words, if more than three Republicans join the five Democrats, a veto would be sustained). Even more than that, indications are that President Bragdon's Republicans are running scared that O'Brien will not only cause Republicans to lose control (or at least working control of the House), but also of the Senate.
Democrats would have to capture seven seats to pull even at 12-12 in the Senate. My current projection is a gain of six.
Democrats would have to capture 98 seats to pull even at 200-200 in the House. My current projection is something in the range of 80-100 which will mean either firm control or working control (Democrats plus anti-O'Brien Republicans) in the House.
O'Brien continues to act like a school bully and to inflict black eyes on the Grand Old Party. O'Brien seems intent on picking a fight when discretion would dictate otherwise. Just this week, he reacted to criticism of ALEC (American Legislative Council) by deciding to join the group. Whether or not ALEC deserves the scorn heaped upon it (I tend to think it does not), only a totally tone deaf politico would rush to join it at a time it's under attack.
A black jack analogy seems appropriate. Strategy dictates you should always split aces or eights, but never split face cards. If you have two face cards, you should always stand at 20. Only the most fool-hardy black jack player would split the hand--thus throwing away a 20 for two questionable hands.
O'Brien these days most resembles the black jack player splitting his face cards while Bragdon plays the role of dealer saying, "Are you sure you really want to do that?"
A reckless O'Brien will hurt Republicans not merely in the House but in the Senate, and he has at least eight more weeks to display unabated recklessness. While Ray Buckley and Kathy Sullivan can hardly wait to see what O'Brien does next, Bragdon shudders to think about it.