When a “cabal” of Senate Republicans stripped Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle of most of his authority this month, they also turned Democratic senators into bystanders – and disenfranchised the 3 million people they represent, Senate Minority Leader Robert Brown of Macon declared Tuesday.
“We are not going to be bound by these rules. You can infer whatever you like from that,” Brown said.
When the General Assembly convenes in January, Republicans will have 35 members in the Senate — just three shy of the necessary two-thirds majority needed to rule on any issue without Democratic interference.
When pressed, the Democratic leader has a single word: “Disrupt.”
“The power of the minority is always to be able to disrupt,” he added.
Brown also referred to the new Republican requirement that all senators recite a pledge of allegiance to the state flag of Georgia as “an abomination” – though he said this was a personal opinion, not a caucus position.
“I’m an American. I did not fight to separate from this country. My ancestors, even though they couldn’t vote in some instances, were Americans who pledged their allegiance to the American flag – not the Georgia flag,” Brown said. “I think what is being done here is symbolically saying we are somehow not a part of that country that remains America.”
The Senate GOP caucus voted to require a pledge to the state flag at the same Nov. 5 meeting where it stripped Cagle of most of his authority. State Sen. Jeff Mullis, R-Chickamauga, author of the flag proposal, said it wasn’t his intention to ignite yet another debate over the issue of state sovereignty.
State Sen. Emanuel Jones, D-Decatur, chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus, said he will absent himself from the chamber rather than recite a pledge to the state flag.
But Sen. George Hooks, D-Americus, one of the designers of the current flag – adopted in 2003, said he would lead the first pledge. Sen. Jason Carter, D-Decatur, said he, too, would recite the pledge.
Carter’s grandfather, the former president, played a quiet but important role in raising the current flag – as an alternative to a statewide vote, proposed by Gov. Sonny Perdue, on the 1956 state flag and its Confederate battle emblem.
In his press conference with reporters, Brown said he had discussed the new Senate rules with Cagle.
”The lieutenant governor, I don’t think, has quite absorbed this yet. He’s still reading the Bible and talking about loving people, getting along – and how he was elected by the people.
“And he’s going to go around the state and let the people know that he has an agenda. I don’t think he’s quite understood that, basically, all he’ll be able to do under these circumstances is cry that river that Mark Taylor talked about….I don’t think he’s absorbed the raw politics that has been played on him.”
The minority leader disputed the “power-sharing” descriptions that Republicans in the Senate have given to their move. “If you’re not in the same room where the decision is being made, that’s a strange kind of sharing,” he said.
But Brown said he was more disturbed by the impact the rule changes will have on the Democratic caucus:
”I think, basically, disenfranchises over 3 million Georgians. It makes the Democratic minority a non-player. All the way from very petty things like – normally we are able to go down for points of personal privilege at the beginning of the day. They’re now moving that to the bottom of the calendar. Which means we’ll be talking to desks or talking to ourselves. This is a way of stifling our voices….
“While we’ve had our differences with the lieutenant governor, he has tried to bring a modicum of fairness to this process. He has met with me, the minority leader, in prior years to discuss committee assignments and committee appointments. Ultimately, the decision will be with the majority party. But to completely shut us out in the manner in which this cabal of Republicans are doing I think is unconscionable.”
Brown said he has been asked by the Republican caucus to submit Democratic requests for committee assignments “under the new rules” – i.e., to the Committee on Assignments that now rules the Senate, rather than the lieutenant governor.
Never mind that the rules won’t be adopted until January, or that Brown hasn’t seen a final draft. “If you’re living under the new Confederacy, that’s the way you can do it,” he said.