As they prepare to overturn a handful of Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s 19 vetoes the Democratic majority is hard at work trying to paint the Republican minority as “obstructionists.”
Republican leadership denied the characterization and pointed out that while Democratic lawmakers are in the majority, they will need 101 votes in the House and 24 votes in the Senate to successfully overturn Rell’s vetoes during Monday’s scheduled session. And it’s not the House Democratic caucus that concerns lawmakers—it’s the Senate.
In the Senate there will be no wiggle room for Democratic lawmakers. All 24 will have to vote in favor of a bill in order to overturn a veto.
House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero, R-Norwalk, said in a phone interview Friday that the Senate Democratic caucus has a reoccurring problem: “They’re not very good at counting the votes and controlling their membership.”
He said trying to characterized the Republicans as obstructionists was a “preemptive strike” in case they’re not able to get the votes. And to try to stifle debate is like trying to take away the Republicans’ constitutional rights, Cafero said.
However, while the Republicans may have voted for some of the bills the governor vetoed, Cafero said the Republicans “have every right to sustain her veto.” Apparently, Republican legislators’ bitterness over Rell’s decision to sign the U.S. Senate vacancy bill—after she asked them to speak against it for more than five hours on the House floor—has faded.
Derek Slap, spokesman for the Senate Democratic caucus, said all the Democratic caucus was saying by posting an “Obstruct-O-Meter” on its Web site Friday morning was that Republican legislators may oppose some of these initiatives, but they should not filibuster in order to prevent votes from occurring.
Slap said the Senate caucus expects all 24 members to attend Monday’s session to override a number of Rell’s vetoes. He said it’s the Republican lawmakers who will have some explaining to do to their constituents if they plan to vote against something they initially supported.
The Republican caucus, especially during this past session, has a history of filibustering bills, Slap said. He said the veto session is short and the Republicans “should let the people’s business happen.”
Insiders say Democratic leaders are preparing to overturn 12 of Rell’s 19 vetoes, although it was still unclear Friday which bills made the cut.
Speaker of the House Chris Donovan, D-Meriden, said Thursday that the two marquee health care reform bills were at the top of the list for the Democratic majority, but was unable to say with any certainty how many of Rell’s 19 vetoes will be overturned.
“She picked bills that weren’t even close,” Donovan said, showing confidence that the legislature would be successful in overturning at least some of Rell’s vetoes.
And it looks like Democratic lawmakers are doing everything they can to limit Monday’s debate, including asking the Office of Legislative Research to put together this report on the rules and procedures used in other states to limit debate on bills.
The report found that 44 legislative bodies limit both the opportunities for speech and the length of speech. It also found that 50 legislative bodies set time limits for individual speakers in legislative debate, and 76 legislative bodies, including both the Connecticut Senate and House, limit the number of speaking opportunities a member may take.
Once the veto session is convened on Monday, Donovan said the legislature has until midnight Wednesday to overturn Rell’s vetoes.