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Republican resolutions attempt to dissolve governing coalition

Several resolutions introduced by Bob McDermott failed to pass today, but showed divisions within the House of Representatives that threatened the SB1 vote count

Will Caron

UPDATED: 2:22pm

House Republican Bob McDermott introduced several resolutions that would change House committee assignments today. Speaker Joseph Souki and Scott Saiki also introduced their own committee assignment resolution to counter McDermott’s.

After the resolutions were introduced, the representatives immediately went into caucus where they stayed for about an hour. They then emerged for discussion on the floor. Where things got a tad heated.

The primary target of McDermott’s resolutions appeared to be Rep. Cynthia Thielen, who sits on the House Judiciary Committee (JUD). The JUD is one of two committees that will hold a joint hearing on SB1, the Marriage Equality bill, on Thursday. The second is the House committee on Finance (FIN). Thielen is solidly in the ‘yes’ column when it comes to a vote on SB1. McDermott’s suggested replacement for her, Rep. Richard Fale, is solidly in the ‘no’ column.

“I am standing firm,” said Rep. Thielen on the phone, shortly before the session began at 10am. “I believe I should remain on the Judiciary Committee.”

But beyond pulling Thielen off the JUD, McDermott’s other resolutions really sought to break up the governing coalition (which includes the republican members of the House) that got Souki “the gavel in the first place,” as McDermott himself put it during his speech. His second resolution called for house republicans currently in chair or vice-chair positions in all committees, to step down from their leadership roles.

Furthermore, McDermott’s last two resolutions (HR4 and HR5) called for republicans to pull out of the bipartisan coalition and leadership coalition between the Majority and Minority Caucuses and called for Rep. Gene Ward to replace Rep. Aaron Ling Johanson as the Minority Leader of the House of Representatives.

HR 1 passed, which made it look fairly certain that Thielen would remain on the JUD, and many of the representatives applauded. HR2, 3 and 4 were quickly deferred. It was during discussion of HR5, however, that the division lines began appearing.

Johanson, who would have been replaced with Gene Ward as minority leader, opposed the bill, while Rep. Jo Jordan, a democrat in Calvin Say’s recently-ousted faction supported the bill because it would have allowed democrats to appoint new vice chairs to the Finance Committee, Economic Development & Business Committee and Energy & Environmental Protection Committee. Rep. Marcus Oshiro, a long time Say supporter, also supported the measure, while Rep. Beth Fukumoto, another republican, left the floor, later saying she did not wish to participate in the proceedings because of the way McDermott was handling it.

Gene Ward said he wasn’t consulted about assuming the minority leadership and also criticized Speaker Souki for being unable to hold the governing coalition together: “Mr. Speaker, your majority is divided, my caucus is divided, the people of Hawaii are divided.”

According to McDermott, the Special Session was called without consulting the republican members of the governing coalition. “This [process] wasn’t deliberative or transparent and I wash my hands of it,” said McDermott. “Mr. Speaker, your majority is divided.”

HR5 would have pulled the republican minority further to the right and would have destabilized Speaker Souki’s position, which may have affected the vote count on SB1, which we reported in August was going to be a close count no matter what.

Rep. Chris Lee, who opposed HR5, criticized McDermott and other members of the minority caucus of acting similarly toward Marriage Equality as Congressional republicans did toward Obama Care. “I’m disappointed that the members of the minority party don’t want to work together anymore, simply because they do not agree with us on this one issue. This process is about compromise. Democrats won’t always get what they want. Republicans won’t always get what they want. But to try and dissolve the governing coalition because you don’t agree on this issue is no different than how republicans in Washington acted so recently.”

After some more heated discussion in which Speaker Souki had to call a recess, barely deciding against having Gene Ward called out of order and removed from the chamber, the House voted to kill HR5. The House adjourned at roughly 12:30pm.