There is a simple rule in politics: don’t do anything unless you are sure of the outcome. It seems the House Democrats, drunk with power, forgot this axiom when they brought “Healthy Kids” (House Bill 2201) out of Committee before they had enough votes. From day one, there were not enough votes for statewide health insurance for kids funded by a tobacco tax. Despite hours of negotiations (many behind the scenes) there still wasn’t consensus. The Democrats could not wait and acted rashly.
In the middle of debate (the healthy, spirited kind the Speaker said the other day was good for Oregon) Rep. Phil Barnhart called for a closure of debate and an immediate vote. What neither he nor his fellow Democrats expected was a 3 hour standoff from Representative John Lim who refused to vote until he had a chance to speak. Rep. Butler rolled out a blanket and took a nap on the House floor. Members played cards. Staff crowded on the side aisles to confer.
No amount of cajoling from anyone: Republicans, Democrats or the Speaker himself could dissuade Lim. It didn’t matter that all the other votes had been cast. It didn’t matter that even without his vote the bill had failed. What mattered to Rep. Lim was that before he had a chance to speak he had been silenced. The Democrats had made a motion that quieted the very debate the chamber had been built for. In a final parliamentary edict, Speaker Merkley ruled Rep. Lim out of order and closed the vote.
The gavel fell and the matter was over. But not for the Democrats.
Rep. Mitch Greenlick rose to change his vote in order to move to reconsider, the final act of CPR on a dying bill. But he was too late””the gavel had fallen, the matter was closed. Healthy Kids and another tax increase by the Democrats was dead.
It’s like my Dad said when he taught me about guns: “Don’t point at anything unless you intend to pull the trigger.” In this case the Democrats were not quick on the draw and shot themselves in the foot.