Six weeks into a budget stalemate, Republican House Speaker Tim Moore said Thursday he won't stop trying to cobble together enough votes to override Gov. Roy Cooper's veto, even as the governor's fellow Democrats insist the votes to uphold it are solid.
Moore told reporters he'll keep working to persuade the Democrats necessary to approve the legislature's two-year spending plan over Cooper's objections.
"We all have our jobs to do, and I'm going to keep doing mine," he said.
A budget was supposed to be enacted by the time the current fiscal year began July 1, but Cooper vetoed it a few days earlier, citing the presence of corporate tax cuts and weak teacher pay raises, as well as the absence of Medicaid expansion.
Unlike the previous six years, Republican majorities in the House and Senate are no longer veto-proof — meaning they need Democratic help to overcome whatever Cooper blocks.
The largest challenge for Republicans is in the House, where they must sway seven Democrats if all 120 members vote and if GOP legislators stay united. The number ebbs and flows depending on absences. The House has kept open the option of an override vote during every daily session since early July, but GOP leaders have never taken the formal vote, extending the session well into the summer.
A letter dated Wednesday to Moore and Senate leader Phil Berger and signed with the names of 51 House Democrats — all but four in the chamber — says Republicans must face facts and begin negotiating with Cooper to resolve the standoff.
"We are committed to sustaining Gov. Roy Cooper's veto of the state budget," Wednesday's letter reads. "The votes are not there to override and staying in session for weeks waiting for Democrats to miss votes because of illness or family and work obligations is a waste of taxpayer dollars and disrespectful to the voters who elected Gov. Cooper and this more balanced General Assembly."
Moore and other Republicans have been promoting local initiatives in the two-year spending plan, by traveling to districts where Democrat lawmakers haven't fully committed to upholding the veto.
We're going to continue ... to try to convince Democrats that this is a great budget that they should vote for," Moore said. He said the fact that four Democrats didn't put their name to the letter is a sign "there actually is some bipartisan support for the override."
Cooper also has been out and about himself, holding made-for-media discussions to press his case for expanding Medicaid. He visited a child care center in Shelby on Thursday. Cooper has said expansion will help improve health care for mothers who are child care workers, which in turn will benefit the workers' own children.
Republican legislators and Cooper and his allies have been battling on social media for several weeks, accusing each other of failing to negotiate in good faith. GOP leaders say Cooper is demanding expansion be agreed to before considering other budget differences — something Cooper denies. The governor, however, has said legislators must make expansion part of their discussions.