UPDATE: The Georgia House has voted 68-70 not to approve a resolution honoring President Barack Obama and making him an honorary member of the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus.
The vote on HR 673 came after two days of negotiations between Democrats who saw the resolution as similar to many they’ve approved honoring Republicans over the years, and Republicans who wanted no part of celebrating Obama’s “vision.”
It left Democrats angry and some Republicans shaking their heads. House Minority Leader DuBose Porter (D-Dublin), using a common parliamentary maneuver, asked that the vote be reconsidered, which could happen as early as Friday.
Immediately after the vote, Majority Leader Jerry Keen (R-St. Simon’s Island), said the vote was predictable given the unwillingness of Democrats to budget on the wording of the resolution.
It seemed like a simple idea, at first: state Sen. Emanuel Jones (D-Decatur) wanted the state’s lawmakers to commemorate Obama and make him an honorary member of the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus.
Jones introduced the resolution, SR 177, in the Senate, which carries no power of law but merely praises the new president and gives him a lifetime membership to the Black Caucus.
Like dozens of similar resolutions approved without thought each year, Jones’ was read and immediately adopted in the Senate. That’s what normally happens in the House, too. But when the House version, HR 673, was introduced on Tuesday, things didn’t go as planned.
Rep. Austin Scott (R-Tifton) objected.
Timing was partially the reason. Rep. Melvin Everson (R-Snellville) had just moments before blistered Obama from the well because the administration was considering requiring military veterans to use private insurance companies for health care (a proposal the president later pulled).
Everson leaves the well and the Obama resolution is the next thing read by the House clerk. Scott asked Speaker Glenn Richardson (R-Hiram) for clarification as to what the resolution said and, after a few awkward moments, Richardson had the resolution held for a day.
That was Tuesday.
Now, it’s Thursday, and the resolution has yet to be approved or even reconsidered. And, Scott said, he still opposes it and promised to vote against it.
Why? Because he does not believe Obama deserves to be honored as the resolution says.
For Scott, this is the offending passage:
“WHEREAS, throughout his political career, President Barack Obama has enjoyed an unimpeachable reputation for integrity, vision, and passion for public service, and no one could be more worthy of special honor and recognition by the members of this body and the Georgia Legislative Black Caucus than this extraordinary leader.”
Scott wants to remove “of this body” so it’s only the Black Caucus honoring Obama, and not the full House.
“If the Black Caucus wants to adopt that resolution, that’s fine,” Scott said in an interview on Thursday. “If they want it to be ‘this body,’ then it becomes different.”
But Scott said he was not responsible for the resolution being carried over on Tuesday, although he warned that if those who support the resolution won’t change the language, “we will vote on it.” And, given the GOP majority in the House, the ultimate outcome was closer than it had to be.
The whole situation is a mess, said Rep. Calvin Smyre (D-Columbus), the chairman of the House Democratic Caucus and the president of the National Black Caucus of State Legislators.
“It’s a most unfortunate thing,” Smyre before Thursday’s vote. Smyre will be in Washington on Friday to meet with Obama about the economic stimulus legislation.
“It’s merely a ‘commend’ and a ‘membership’ resolution,” Smyre said. “It’s taken on a life of its own.”
Smyre said the Legislature adopts these kinds of resolutions all the time. One example was HR 7 in 2005, which commended President George W. Bush for his response to Hurricane Katrina.
That one passed without a problem.