Wednesday, May 27, 2009 | 2:01 a.m.
As The Man Formerly Known as Governor contemplates more important topics than meeting the president, including how to discriminate against domestic partners (presumably not his own) and reinstate 36 percent cuts in the higher ed system, a question occurs to me about the last week of the session: Who will stand up for him?
Beyond the usual shenanigans — lobbyists trying to slip through bills that will save or make their clients a lot of money, legislators trying to flout deadline rules by exhuming pet bills — the rest of Legislature ’09 is about whether Republicans will stand by their man.
As Ø threatens to set a record for vetoes in one session, GOP lawmakers, especially those who voted for bills he rejects, are going to have to decide whether they will change their positions to help sustain the albatross of the state Republican Party. Will they actually validate his decisions even though he has just returned from traversing the state on his Road to Marital Recovery Tour, cavorting with a girlfriend, yelling at townspeople and deriding the Legislature?
Jim Gibbons, if he indeed is intent on running again for an office he long ago abdicated, will try to do so on the backs of the Gang of 63, or at least those who voted for the $780 million tax increase and, perhaps, those who supported other horrors such as domestic partnerships. It’s all he has left. I only wonder whether Republicans who regard him as a toxic blight on the party and their own political careers will be mute as he continues his Veto to Victory Tour this week.
Some seem to believe that veto-proof majorities for the tax increase may prove shaky when Ø vetoes the bill sometime before midnight Thursday. Perhaps they will respect the institution of the executive branch, if not the person heading it. Perhaps given the reaction from their districts and the pressure applied by a vocal minority, they will have second thoughts. Perhaps they will try to extort promises for their override vote to try to pass some legislation.
The answer from Democratic leaders of both houses should be simple: Go right ahead.
First, if it were to happen, it’s a pure bluff. No one who voted for the tax increase can possibly think it provides any insulation from political fallout to sustain a gubernatorial veto. Do any of them really think a prospective opponent won’t use last week’s vote in campaign materials?
Second, it would be intellectually dishonest for any of the tax raisers to have an epiphany a week later and decide not to validate the previous vote. It’s not as if this tax package — or a reasonable facsimile thereof — has not been known for months.
I would be the first to acknowledge that craven and intellectually bankrupt behavior does occur occasionally in the capital. But these folks also have no loyalty to this chief executive. And what would he promise them? Campaign help next year? With friends like that ...
The cushion in the state Senate — five Republicans, a majority of the nine members — also should give comfort to those who fear the reinstatement of the devastating administration budget. After what they went through to get cleared of ethics concerns and to extract concessions, I don’t see the Republicans suddenly going south this week. And even if one or two or even three did — and that is extremely remote — they still have 14. (Unless, of course, they were to lose a Democrat or two, which, in that Senate caucus, may not be as extremely remote.)
The Assembly numbers are nearly unshakable. Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley always holds her caucus. And Republican John Carpenter, whose vote would be needed only if a Democrat changed his or her mind or was absent, said God made him do it. That voice telling you to change your mind is not the Lord, assemblyman; it’s only Chuck Muth.
The modern-day record for vetoes was set by Bob List in 1981 with a dozen bills he sent back to lawmakers. Ø is only a couple away from that mark and surely will surpass it.
List also suffered the most successful overrides since 1945 — three of those 12 vetoes were overturned by lawmakers. The Man Formerly Known as Governor has had one veto overridden and likely will add to that total unless Republicans start drinking his sour Kool-Aid.
That’s unlikely and raises another question: How sweet would it be if rejections of Ø’s vetoes of domestic partners and taxes are the ones that make him the most overridden chief executive in Nevada history?