Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Eugene Democrats Rebuffed on Special Session

It may stretch comparison somewhat to say that Sen. Vicki Walker and Rep. Bob Ackerman faced the same sort of humiliation Monday that Ted Kennedy and John Kerry did in their ill-fated filibuster of Justice Alito. But it's not a bad fit: two fairly left of center Democrats from the same locale, arguing on principle for a highly unusual variance from standard political practice, against the wishes of caucus leadership, without much of a PR push to sway skeptical colleagues, and against a wall which nearly everyone agreed from the start was almost assuredly too high to climb.

Of course the stakes in Salem were not as high, but to Walker and Ackerman the threat of a $172 million hole in the health services budget was a threat that mandated immediate action. Unfortunately for their aims, their solution--a push for a special session--resulted in but a single additional vote, and the proposal went over like a leaden dirigible. The response from Karen Minnis and the Republicans of the House was expected; funding social services is just about the last possible thing they're interested in discussing as a priority. But what may have been a little surprising was the dismissiveness with which other Democrats treated the proposal:

Sen. Floyd Prozanski, D-Eugene, voted against the special session. He said it appeared that the proponents didn't fully consider how the law worked. The law requires the session to be held within five days after an affirmative vote.

"I don't know that the requesters understood this fully," he said.

Senate President Peter Courtney said he still supports a special session - just not in February.

"We just need to get more information and get prepared and go in and get the job done," he said.

Yeowch. It's only speculation as to what John Kerry has up his sleeve in 2008, but we know that Walker's plans include a run for governor this year. Supporters can only hope this was not a political ploy, because you only get excused for them if they work--and if this one were an American Idol contestant, it would have been William Hung only less charming. I'd love to know what Walker's response to fellow Eugenite Prozanski would have been: DID she know that she was calling for a session in the 2nd week of February? Because that was clearly the issue with other Democrats--Courtney is behind the idea of a session, and even preferred one taking place before summer, but agreed that now was simply not workable. Did that flyer not make it into Walker's Salem cubby? She may be wishing that Kitzhaber had given her a face-saving out. You're on your own now, sister!