After the Republican-domintated Majority Coaltion Caucus voted 26-23 today to remove moderate state Sen. Steve Hobbs (D-44, Lake Stevens) as sole chair of the financial institutions committee—a position he's held since last year's MCC-coup, that has given the MCC a claim to bipartisanship—Hobbs told a group of reporters in the wings off the senate floor that the MCC had reneged on its pledge to be bipartisan. Hobbs' demotion leaves him as the committee cochair with Repbulican freshman Sen. Jan Angel (R-26, Port Orchard), a staunch conservative.
"This is a clear indication that the caucus has moved to the right," Hobbs said after giving a damning floor speech directed at MCC leader Sen. Rodney Tom (D-48, Medina), the black-sheep Democrat who joined with the GOP to give the numbers to control the senate last year. Hobbs quoted a now-ironic statement that Sen. Tom made last year on the Washington State Senate Republican Caucus web page. Here's what Tom said (as directly quoted by Hobbs):
These guys have really stepped up as leaders. I'm glad to see some of my fellow Democrats are willing to be part of the solution. People are tired of politics; they want us to work cooperatively on our most important priorities—jobs, education and the budget. We are committed to a new way of governing—an approach that isn't about creating political advantage, but about working together to get important issues solved.
Then, in the runup to the vote, Hobbs, referring to some moderate Republicans in the caucus, said: "Some of you came up to me and told me, 'Man, Steve, I was with you, but we gotta have [caucus] unity. I fought for you, but...hey, I'm sorry, the caucus voted.'"
He then challenged them to defy caucus-controlled politics: "You have a chance now to vote how you really feel," he said, reminding them that as a moderate Democrat he'd defied his own caucus many times, including on workers' comp reform, education reform, and the budget. (True. True. True.)
No luck. (His fellow moderate, Sen. Brian Hatfield, D-19, Raymond, the other Democrat who has headed up a committee under MCC control, urged the senate to defer the vote—"a stay of execution to give time for cooler heads to prevail.")
I asked Hobbs afterward to name the Republicans who had told him personally they supported him and he didn't hesitate: Sens. Joe Fain, Andy Hill, and Steve Litzow, he said, identifying the obvious Microsoft suburb Republicans who are supposedly more moderate than the rest of their colleagues. He also named Tom.
He accused the conservatives of being a "minority...that rules the senate."
Hobbs said he believed the MCC demoted him in part for sponsoring the Reproductive Parity Act, supporting the DREAM Act, and agitating for a transportation package—all of which, he says, have the votes in the senate to pass if the moderate Republicans would defy the caucus and vote the way they really believe. He framed the vote to demote him as an indication that "if they can't be bipartisan on this, they're not going to be able to be bipartisan on anything going forward."
Hobbs hinted that if the RPA and the DREAM Act don't go forward, he won't, as he has many times in the past, vote with the Republicans. However, with their new 26-23 advantage, they don't need his vote any more.
After the vote, MCC caucus chair Sen. Linda Evans Parlette (R-12, Wenatchee) said the caucus did not tell members how to vote, pointed out that Hobbs would still be the cochair of the committee (with veto power), and that his new cochair, Sen. Angel, had "unique talents" with a professional background in banking.
Sen. Angel won a special election last year, moving from the house to the senate, increasing the MCC vote advantage from last year's 25-24 to this year's 26-23.
Sen. Sharon Nelson (D-34, W. Seattle), the Demoratic senate minority leader, issued a formal statement after the vote:
Sen. Hobbs’ moderate and bipartisan credentials and impartial oversight of the Senate’s Financial Institutions, Housing and Insurance Committee over the past several years is not up for debate.
Senators and stakeholders alike will tell you Sen. Hobbs is a fair, reasonable and unbiased Chair. I am proud to have served with him on his committee.
Sen. Hobbs stood up for what he believes in–women’s reproductive health, educational opportunities for all children–and now he no longer serves as Chair of a committee that he has led with distinction for several years.
I am alarmed by the increasing levels of partisanship from the Republican Majority.