Here is What is Dividing State House Republicans in Helena
You've likely heard the national news media attention being given to the debate dividing Republicans in Congress, but what is the big debate dividing Republicans in the Montana Legislature this week? Much like the US House...House rules.
State Rep. Jed Hinkle (R-Belgrade) and Rep. Jerry Schillinger (R-Circle) reached out and joined us on the radio Tuesday morning to express their concerns with the latest proposed House rules that were expected to come before a full vote of the Montana House Tuesday afternoon.
Hinkle and Schillinger are concerned that a handful of Republican legislators are teaming up with Democrats to make it easier to "blast" bills out of committee.
Rep. Hinkle: Ultimately, five Republicans joined with the Democrats and that was enough by one vote to pass these amendments on to the rules, HR 1, the rules bill. And one of the changes that was made was that the blast threshold was brought from a 60 down to a 55. And what that means is that if that faction of the Republican Party has enough votes with the Democrats, which we believe that that 55 number is their target number- they believe they have those votes- that they could move any bill from committee that's tabled. They could move that on to the floor for an official vote and completely bypass the committee.
Rep. Schillinger said the people of Montana voted in a conservative majority in big numbers. Republicans now hold a supermajority in the state legislature. He worries that with a handful of Republicans siding with the Democrats on the rules that the smaller Democrat caucus will "get a bigger seat at the table" even though the voters said they don't want them in power.
Rep. David Bedey (R-Hamilton) is one of the Republican legislators who supported the rules change. I spotted his response to the rules debate on the Montana & Conservative Values Facebook page. Here's part of what he had to say:
Rep. Bedey: Contrary to what some legislators and a ill-informed functionary at the MTGOP have alleged, passage of the proposed amendments will not cede control of the House to the Democrats. There are only 32 of them! And even if the Democrats could find 19 Republicans to join them on a blast motion, all that would accomplish is to bring a bill to the floor for open debate, it does not ensure that the bill would pass.
Rep. Bedey also said his effort to change the rules is similar to the effort being undertaken by Congressman Matt Rosendale (R-MT02) and some of the Freedom Caucus members who are seeking rule changes in the newly Republican-dominated Congress.
Rep. Bedey: Do the House Rules exist to favor one party or faction of the legislature, or are they in place to ensure that the voices and ideas of each legislator (and by extension his or her constituents) have a fair chance to be heard? I suspect that most Montanans would agree with the latter.
Rep. Bedey will join us on Wednesday for more on his take.
I thought the most convincing argument that I've read or heard thus far came from Rep. Hinkle. The last legislative session seemed very productive, and the Republicans seemed united compared to previous sessions marked by GOP infighting. So why change the rules?
Here's audio with Rep. Hinkle and Rep. Schillinger from Wednesday AM: