Political Animal

The Trump Administration Is Sabotaging Veterans’ Access to Health Care

On June 6, the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs deployed seven staffers to five veterans’ hospitals across the country. Their goal: to monitor the rollout of a new law set to accelerate the outsourcing of hundreds of thousands of veterans served by the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) to private-sector providers.

But this critical monitoring work was actively undermined by officials inside the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). According to a House report obtained by the Washington Monthly, Congressional staff faced “coordinated and unprecedented obstruction” by national VA staff in these oversight efforts.

For months, lawmakers had been largely frozen out of efforts to build the programs and write the rules to implement this law, formally called the VA Mission Act, leading to widespread concern among both legislators and veterans’ advocacy groups. But in early June, when the staffers were able to exercise limited oversight to find out what was truly happening, their fears were confirmed. “VA did not adequately prepare facilities, providers, or veterans for the transition,” their report reads.

The VA Mission Act is widely considered the most significant—and ideologically motivated—veterans’ law in a generation. Passed by a GOP-controlled Congress and signed into law by President Donald Trump, it established a sweeping new private sector healthcare program, the Veterans Community Care Program (VCCP) and granted the Veterans Affairs Secretary, Robert Wilkie, with wide latitude to set eligibility criteria that determines when veterans can use private-sector care.

The law garnered significant support from powerful healthcare interests, and savvy conservative veterans’ groups who have a great deal of influence in Trump’s Washington. But it was also supported by traditional veterans’ service organizations and some Democrats. This is largely because it expanded services to disabled veterans, but also because the final text contained stringent requirements that veterans could only be moved into private facilities for legitimate clinical needs, or if they faced burdensome wait or drive times at their nearest VHA clinic, assuaging the concerns about VA privatization. (Care inside the VHA, while often maligned in the media, is generally cheaper and better, with shorter wait times than what’s offered in the private sector.)

Still, Democrats and veteran advocates have criticized the Mission Act as a duplicitous drive toward privatization. Secretary Wilkie has insisted that it does no such thing, but he has largely left Congress in the dark as implementation has ramped up. In turn, tensions between the VA and the Hill have intensified. Over the last several months, Wilkie has sniped at House Democrats on Twitter, launched a broadside against the department’s public sector union (which was subsequently criticized by more than 100 lawmakers), and skipped an oversight and investigation hearing. In closed door meetings, congressional staff say VA officials have offered conflicting answers over the law’s cost and eligibility standards.

“Very little is being shared,” a congressional staffer told the Monthly. “VA will say one thing one week, and a different thing the next. The whole process is a shit show.”

Hill staffers hoped the committee’s site visits would bring some clarity, but they soon realized that the VA was trying to prevent them from happening all together. Its Office of Congressional and Legislative Affairs issued guidance to medical center staff that “congressional staff ‘shadowing’ medical center leaders or staff is not permitted;'” it required the staffers be escorted by a public affairs officer or other designee at the facilities; and it mandated that all questions be pre-cleared by national staff, or at least referred directly to them.

In the end, the VA blocked congressional staff from speaking to key employees at four of the five hospitals they visited. At one hospital, staff weren’t even allowed to venture beyond the hospital lobby.

During their visit to the VA’s medical center in San Juan, Puerto Rico, for instance, they were not allowed to meet with emergency management staff to discuss ongoing health and humanitarian work after Hurricane Maria. (Wilkie refuted the findings of the separate House report on Puerto Rico’s VA after NBC News wrote about it.)

Despite this obstructionism, Hill officials came away from the visits with a number of troubling findings. While they were denied access to VA’s new Decision Support Tool, a software program that is used by an authorized staff member to determine a veterans’ eligibility for private sector care, staff unearthed credible reports that the tool was malfunctioning. Specifically, the tool was slow, prone to crashing, didn’t list all community providers, and did not load eligibility data for the drive time standards.

According to the congressional report, these workarounds likely compromised “VA’s ability to ensure accurate eligibility.” One staffer bluntly acknowledged to the House committee: “I think we are sending more people to the community than we probably should be.”

This was a serious problem since, as the House report states,“community providers are ill-prepared to treat the high volume of veterans expected to be pushed to the private sector as a result of the Mission Act.” A VA spokeswoman said the department has since fixed the tool.

While the VA has already signed contracts with roughly 5,000 urgent care providers to treat veterans, House and Senate staffers said the VA’s Office of Community Care hasn’t provided Congress with the parameters or requirements of these and other contracts, despite multiple requests.

In response to questions from the Monthly, a VA spokeswoman insisted the “premise of your inquiry is false.” She pointed to a recent op-ed from Wilkie defending the Mission Act’s implementation. The spokeswoman further contended that it was House staffers, not the VA, who stopped engaging in MISSION implementation and oversight talks. A House staffer disputed this claim as “wholly inaccurate,” and said it was the VA that stopped giving them updates, beginning in June.

In many ways, these problems are eerily similar to what happened the last time lawmakers pushed veterans care into the private sector—through the VA Choice Act in 2014. That August, a scandal was exposed at a VA hospital in Phoenix, Arizona, where administrators were rigging scheduling data as part of a widespread effort to cover up wait times that averaged 115 days.

Immediate reform was called for in Congress, and a bipartisan agreement quickly emerged. The final package, called the Veteran’s Choice Program, allocated $10 billion to pay for private care and only $5 billion for the VA to hire more doctors and staff. An additional $1.3 billion was used to lease space at 27 facilities in 18 states to expand coverage options.

The act was billed as a three-year temporary measure, a band-aid that would last until more permanent improvements to the department’s capacity were achieved. But this work has never been completed. Instead, Washington has let the VA’s vacancies balloon to over 45,000.

Moreover, since its inception, Choice has been plagued by administrative failures that often complicated care for veterans. Many of these were carried out by two federal contractors tasked with scheduling appointments and coordinating medical records between the VA and private providers. In the first year of the Choice program, these two companies, Health Net Federal Services and TriWest, notched a 13 percent success rate in scheduling out-of-network appointments. The Inspector General later found that 82 percent of veterans who sought care through the Choice Act did not receive an appointment within the promised time frame. (TriWest has continued to coordinate private sector appointments under MISSION through a sprawling series of contracts worth more than $1 billion.)

TriWest’s performance seems to be similarly dysfunctional under the Mission Act. A VHA source told the Monthly that a large West Coast outpatient clinic has referred more than 600 veterans to the TriWest Community Care Network mental health care clinic since June. Nearly three months later, only 157 have received an appointment. Many of the rest have grown tired of waiting and have given up. Others have returned to the VA clinic because they couldn’t find another community provider.

Robert Anderson, a Vietnam veteran, has faced similar problems with TriWest in New Mexico. For three months now, Anderson says he has been seeking a second opinion on his back issues to little avail. “The outsourcing to Tri West is a joke,” Anderson told the Monthly. “They have called me no less than four times to ask the same questions about preparing an appointment time with the University of New Mexico health center.”

Worse yet, he added, “cutbacks have left the staffing of our medical center like a ghost town with vets coming and going but no one home really. The dental lab has probably 20 hygienists’ little rooms but only three staff for all the thousands of vets needing dental care … Vets are suffering and paying the price right now of privatization.”

The understaffing of departmental facilities combined with the outsourcing of care is quickly resulting in the gutting of the agency. Hospital directors are losing patients across the country. One medical director at a VHA facility in the South told the Monthly it was losing 20 to 30 percent of patients to the private sector.

This outsourcing not only pads the pockets of the private sector, but it can deeply disrupt the kind of care integration and coordination that has resulted in stellar patient outcomes at the VHA. As a nurse practitioner from a Northwest facility told the Monthly, precious time that could be spent on clinical care is now wasted trying to track down patient information from private sector doctors who have no incentive to provide it. This has resulted in massive backlogs—which, according to an August Inspector General Report, are set to “significantly increase” under Mission.

Taken together, the Trump administration is perpetuating a dangerous cycle to further the case for VA privatization. Veterans, now facing fewer clinical resources and delays in care, may themselves clamor under these conditions for the private sector as a seemingly better alternative. But privatization, as we are seeing, will ultimately lead to care that is more expensive, less accessible, and not tailored to the unique needs of those it’s supposed to serve.

Live Blog: Third Democratic Primary Debate

The third debates of the 2020 Democratic primary election take place Thursday night in Houston, Texas. We at the Washington Monthly will be live-blogging throughout the evening, providing fresh insights in real time as the top 10 Democratic candidates try to maximize the opportunity before a national audience. Follow along as the party’s voters get a winnowed down look at which of the candidates is best equipped to defeat Donald Trump.

Make sure to keep refreshing the page. We will constantly update our blog with new analyses throughout the debate.



Buttigieg and Booker gave compelling and human answers to the resilience question. Biden, too—and under conditions (after being interrupted by protesters) that required some resilience. Overall, it was a good night for those three and Warren. Another standout was Amy Klobuchar, who had her strongest night yet.

— Eric Cortellessa


It certainly prompted them to talk about a pretty wide range of experiences. We heard about everything from Booker’s tenant rights documentary losing to one about penguins to Pete Buttigeg’s story of what it was like to come out (the only time this debate, I think, that someone brought up LBGTQ rights).

— Daniel Block


I thought this question on resilience was going to lead to superficial pandering. But to be honest, it made it clear how proud Democrats should be of this group of people who are interviewing for a job as POTUS.

— Nancy LeTourneau


Ok, so after answering this question about resilience, which one of them is the most likely to get into Dartmouth?

— Eric Cortellessa


Asking Biden about resilience was the biggest favor they could have given him. Whatever faults he may have, he just keeps on doing his thing no matter what kind of cruelties are laid at his door.

— Martin Longman


Biden did a poor job of answering the question about education, but his plan to triple Title I federal funding from $16 to $48 billion would have a huge impact—especially for poor children of color.

“The program is meant to help even out inequalities in school funding: Schools are mostly funded by state and local governments, including by property taxes. Typically, that’s meant states spend less on low-income kids’ education than on their richer peers, even though low-income kids often have greater needs that make them more expensive to educate.”

— Nancy LeTourneau


There are serious flaws in both Warren and Sanders’ free college plans. Kevin Carey, who leads Education policy at New America, wrote about a smart alternative in this magazine.

— Grace Gedye


Yang is right that “a good teacher is worth his or her weight in gold.” Out of the factors that influence student achievement that schools are able to change (in other words, not things like family income or the parents’ level of education) teacher quality has the greatest impact. Not class size. Not spending per student.

— Grace Gedye


Hillary Clinton is now trading seventh in PredictIt. She’s gained two cents since the debate began (from three cents to five).

— Daniel Block


On just the basics, Amy Klobuchar has the weakest climate change plan of any of the candidates on stage.

— Nancy LeTourneau


Booker said “market consolidation.” Drink.

— Martin Longman


I think that Cory Booker is the first person to talk about monopoly tonight, albeit briefly. If you want to read more about his thoughts on how concentrated the agricultural industry is, check out this piece by Eric.

— Daniel Block


Cory Booker just mentioned his bill to place a moratorium on mergers between large agribusiness. Last spring, I wrote about the 2020 candidates who want to take on corporate monopolies, including Booker, who found resonance in the issue after reading a Washington Monthly essay on how consolidation in the death industry was eating up small family-owned black funeral homes. The argument for increased antirust enforcement could play well with Iowa farmers—if he chooses to use it.

— Eric Cortellessa


Biden knows what he’s talking about when he refers to what is/isn’t possible in Afghanistan. As Vice President, he worked hard on negotiating a peace agreement between the Afghani government, the Taliban, and Pakistan. But it never came to fruition. He proposes pulling troops out and focusing on an anti-terrorism approach.

— Nancy LeTourneau


Booker nails it when he says that Trump’s isolationist approach in attempting to take on trade and other foreign policy issues alone—antagonizing even our allies—is the problem.

— Nancy LeTourneau


I wrote a little about how the U.S. can use its enormous market size to try and push for higher standards in its trade negotiations. There’s a lot to be said for what Warren recommended: treating trade policy as a means to a political ends (e.g. liberal policies) rather than just as a means to higher GDP growth.

— Daniel Block


I’m waiting for the candidate who says that the leverage we have with China is to re-enter negotiation with TPP countries.

— Nancy LeTourneau


If you can’t talk intelligently about trade policy, change the subject and just say Trump is screwing up. Seems to work for all of them.

— Martin Longman


To piggyback on Dan’s post, the Canadian campaign is just ramping up–and it will be over in six weeks. Canadians balked when, in 2015, they had to endure a full eleven weeks of campaigning.

The arguments for shortening campaign seasons are strong. Our multi-year process is not only tiresome, it requires candidates to raise millions of dollars, which makes running for office prohibitively expensive for most.

— Grace Gedye


Ah, okay they are going to get into foreign policy now.

— Martin Longman


In other news, the first Canadian general election debate took place tonight. Trudeau’s main rivals crashed, but the prime minister himself did not attend.

— Daniel Block


Yang: “Come to America, the water is great!”

At some point I hope they ask something about nuclear proliferation or frayed alliances, the future of the EU and NATO, the trade war with China, the turmoil in British parliament or anything else that might be about more than some controversial domestic subject.

— Martin Longman


As much as I respect Jorge Ramos, the assertion that Obama deported more people than any other president gets a mixed rating on accuracy. While numerically true, “it was due in large part to a change in how ‘deportations’ are defined rather than an increase in the number of persons deported.”

— Nancy LeTourneau


There is not enough Yang.

— Martin Longman


The moderators try to fight a force between Warren and Sanders, this time on the filibuster. It’s one of the most interesting points of difference between the two progressive standard bearers, but Sanders doesn’t bite.

— Daniel Block


I’ve always been lukewarm on eliminating the legislative filibuster but Warren is correct to mention that it is a prerequisite for any of these candidate passing anything of any consequence in their first term.

—Martin Longman


Rather than saying that we have a Congress beholden to the gun industry, I wish Warren would say that we have a Republican Party beholden to the gun industry.

— Nancy LeTourneau


There’s been a shift in gun control politics in the past couple of weeks: some businesses have taken a clear stance. First, the CEO of Walmart pushed for a debate over the assault weapons ban and promised to discourage open carry in its stores, and other stores followed suit. Just today, CEOs from Levi Strauss, Twitter, Uber, and over 140 other companies released a statement asking Senate leaders to address gun violence. A clear request from business leaders is the kind of thing that might actually make Republicans sit up straight and pay attention.

— Grace Gedye


O’Rourke is getting a lot of credit for his passion since the shooting in El Paso. His defense of a mandatory buy-back program on AK-47’s and AR-15’s was the most riveting moment of the debate so far and demonstrates why he deserves credit for being unapologetic.

— Nancy LeTourneau


Biden got a lot of credit from the crowd for saying something nice about how Beto O’Rourke handled the massacre in his hometown. It shows that people don’t like to see the candidates fight. But Julian Castro must feel he has no choice if he wants to get attention.

— Martin Longman


It is worth noting that Linsey Davis’s questions focused on having candidates explain their positions rather than attempting to get them to argue with each other.

— Nancy LeTourneau


The second and third polling candidates (Warren and Sanders) were never asked to speak on the moderator’s racism question.

— Daniel Block


Yang’s point that our current insurance landscape is inhospitable to employers and creates lot of unwanted paperwork for doctors is a good one—and it has has been remarkably absent from the Democratic debates over healthcare so far.

— Grace Gedye


Kamala Harris is defending her decision to become a prosecutor, not her record as a prosecutor.

— Eric Cortellessa


Booker’s health care answer came the closest to the one I would give if I were a candidate. I have my ideal view, which cuts the insurance industry largely out of the health care industry. But I’m not interested in fighting that battle if it isn’t winnable. It’s much more important to make sure people with diabetes or high blood pressure get to see a doctor right now and can afford their treatment. So, the goal is to make the most progress as possible, not to win some ideological battle that cannot be won.

— Martin Longman


The best response to Sanders and Warren on Medicare for All came from Buttigieg when he talked about offering the option of a public plan and trusting the American people.

— Nancy LeTourneau


I’m waiting for Yang to come up with some mindbending out-of-the-box health-care solution.

— Martin Longman


It is clear that Kamala Harris came to this debate focused on taking on Donald Trump—not the other candidates on that stage.

— Nancy LeTourneau


Surprised that in that attack on Trump’s health care policies, Harris didn’t bring up the fact that the number of uninsured Americans went up this year for the first time in a decade.

— Daniel Block


The stat about people who “love their health insurance” has always confused me. What’s to love about billing your insurance? What’s to love about trying to figure out which doctors are in-network? Or being surprised when you’ve visited a doctor who isn’t? People’s love for their health insurance is totally constructed in contrast to the terrible plans that they know other people have.

— Grace Gedye


The candidates have definitely cooled it with the Obama bashing tonight. Looks like they got the message that most Democratic voters—unlike a small but loud chorus on Twitter—didn’t really like that.

— Eric Cortellessa


“While Bernie wrote the bill, I read the bill.”

“I don’t think that’s a bold idea, I think that’s a bad idea.”

Amy Klobuchar is doing a good job with the memorable one-liners tonight.

— Eric Cortellessa


Biden promising that under his plan, everyone who likes their health insurance as is can keep it. That’s the same promise he and Obama made with Obamacare, and it wasn’t accurate.

— Daniel Block


In these debates, Warren has consistently supported Medicare for All. But for all of her ’” have a plan for that,” she hasn’t released a health care plan.

— Nancy LeTourneau


Is someone keeping track of how many time Biden references Barack Obama (including Obamacare) in this debate? That’s twice so far.

— Daniel Block


After her opening statement, Kamala Harris moved up one cent in Predict (and Yang moved down one cent).

— Daniel Block


I’ll be curious to see how Yang wraps up his giveaway by the end of the debate. It landed somewhere between innovative and gimmicky, but Yang has had surprising sticking power. He may be gathering a (small) amount of momentum: this morning, a long interview with Yang was featured on the New York Times The Daily podcast with Michael Barbaro—one of the most-listened to shows.

— Grace Gedye


Kamala Harris gets credit for that original and compelling opening statement—which will no doubt be shared widely on social media. It was kind of kitsch, but it will certainly help her get attention.

That may seem non-substantial, but here’s a key thing to remember about how to measure the success of a debate performance: what matters most for a candidate is the coverage they are able to generate in the days afterword.

— Eric Cortellessa


ABC’s debate rule—that candidates who go over their allotted time will have speaking time deducted later in the debate—may keep candidates from talking over each other quite so much, and will hopefully lead to a more equitable division of speaking time.

— Grace Gedye


With Seth Moulton gone, Beto O’Rourke went strait for the gun control lane, invoking the recent mass shooting in El Paso, Texas—his hometown.

— Daniel Block


Biden will obviously be targeted tonight. By who? By everyone. That’s just one of the pitfalls of being a frontrunner. But it will be interesting to see whether Warren and Sanders team up to attack him, or whether they spend more time attacking each other. Each of them, after all, are competing over the progressive vote.

— Eric Cortellessa

Trump Tries to Extinguish the Fire He Started With Iran

When the news broke that Trump had fired his national security advisor, John Bolton, it was assumed that the break was a result of their disagreement over a potential meeting with the Taliban at Camp David, which the president subsequently cancelled. But now we learn that the final straw was actually about Trump’s desire to meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. Erin Banco and Asawin Suebseng broke the story.

President Donald Trump has left the impression with foreign officials, members of his administration, and others involved in Iranian negotiations that he is actively considering a French plan to extend a $15 billion credit line to the Iranians if Tehran comes back into compliance with the Obama-era nuclear deal

Several sources told The Daily Beast that foreign officials are expecting Trump to either agree to cooperate on the French deal or to offer to ease some sanctions on Tehran. Meanwhile, President Trump is also considering meeting Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in September.

“I do believe they’d like to make a deal. If they do, that’s great. And if they don’t, that’s great too,” Trump told reporters Wednesday. “But they have tremendous financial difficulty, and the sanctions are getting tougher and tougher.” When asked if he would ease sanctions against Iran in order to get a meeting with Iran Trump simply said: “We’ll see what happens. I think Iran has a tremendous, tremendous potential.”

If the last line from the president sounds familiar, that’s because it is exactly the same thing he says now about North Korea, after initially threatening “fire and fury” against them.

Perhaps the president simply wants another photo-op.

Trump’s flirtations with—if not outright enthusiasm toward—chummily sitting down with foreign dictators and America’s geopolitical foes are largely driven by his desire for historic photo ops and to be seen as the dealmaker-in-chief. It’s a desire so strong that it can motivate him to upturn years of his own administration’s policymaking and messaging.

If so, Bloomberg reporters note that Iran isn’t buying it.

Top Iranian officials have in recent weeks sought to stamp out talk of a direct meeting between the leaders, with Zarif calling it “unimaginable” and Rouhani saying he’s not interested in a photo-op with the American president. That’s a subtle reference to America’s outreach with North Korea, which despite three meetings between Trump and Kim Jong Un hasn’t resulted in any breakthrough.

All of this does, however, clarify why Javad Zarif made a surprise visit to the recent G7 meeting at the request of French President Emmanuel Macron. While in Paris, Trump told reporters that “Iran might need a short-term letter of credit or loan that could get them over a very rough patch.”

As Trump attempts to buy Iran’s reentry into the agreement negotiated by the Obama administration, we should keep in mind that he has consistently called it a “disaster” and “the worst deal ever negotiated.” Given how erratic the president can be, it is possible that he could flip on this issue once again—especially if senators who have always supported military intervention in Iran, like Lindsey Graham and Tom Cotton, apply pressure. But what is more likely is that we will see yet another example of the pattern identified by Brendan Nyhan.

  1. Present distorted version of the status quo: “Iran agreement is the worst deal ever negotiated.”
  2. Create crisis over distorted version of the status quo: Pull out of the Iran agreement.
  3. Restore status quo (often at substantial cost).
  4. Take credit for status quo.

What we are witnessing is the beginning of step three. As I wrote previously, the recent partnership announced between China and Iran undermines much of the leverage the Obama administration had developed in an effort to bring Iran to the negotiating table in the first place. That is why President Obama didn’t have to make concessions simply to talk with Rouhani. Those are some of the reasons why, if the status quo is restored, it will be at substantial cost.

Beyond how this move plays in the U.S., Iran, and with our European allies, there are two other major players that have a stake in what happens. Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu is facing a tough reelection challenge next week. He has opposed the Iran nuclear agreement from the beginning, taking the unprecedented step of addressing a joint session of congress to voice his concerns. Given Netanyahu’s position on Iran, it has always been clear that nothing short of regime change would suffice. On Wednesday, Trump told reporters at the White House that he’s not interested in regime change in Iran. That might be the first time we’ve seen the president part ways with the Israeli prime minister.

On the other hand, Russian President Vladimir Putin is sure to be pleased with this turn of events. His country has always been a strong ally of Iran. Here is how  described the relationship.

Ever since the Kremlin decided to launch the military campaign in Syria, Russia and Iran have been forging all types of ties. The Trump decision to pull out from the nuclear deal didn’t reverse this trend. To further build this image of being a powerful nation able to construct an alternative to the West-centered world order, Russia needs to see its Iranian partner strong, not weakened.

While Putin clearly supported the election of Donald Trump, his ultimate aim was to see the United States weakened on the global stage, something the U.S. president has accomplished in ways that probably go beyond Putin’s expectations.

It is important to be clear. Stopping Iran from developing nuclear weapons is ultimately the most important goal. If Trump stumbles back into the agreement forged by the Obama administration, that would be a good thing. But that doesn’t mitigate the fact that it was this president who pulled out of the agreement in the first place. He started the fire that he is now attempting to extinguish. Whatever comes of these efforts will weaken the United States and result in an agreement that is inferior to the one that was previously in place. That is an appalling record for a president.

Is the North Carolina GOP the Future of the National Party?

I think it’s time to look to the North Carlolina GOP as a kind of worst-possible-case example of where the national party is headed. Nowhere else have I found the Republicans to be more conniving, vindictive, undemocratic and downright criminal. Wednesday provided the latest appalling example.

The state’s legislature has been struggling to pass a budget for the next fiscal year. The Republicans control both the House and Senate, and they sent a budget to the Democratic governor, Roy Cooper, back in June. However, the governor wants to expand Medicaid under the umbrella of the Affordable Care Act and their budget did not provide for that. This is the primary reason that Cooper vetoed their bill.

Since the GOP does not have a supermajority in either chamber, they do not have the votes to simply override Cooper’s veto. Yet, rather than sit down with their Democratic counterparts and work out a compromise budget, the Republicans have refused to budge.

Every legislative day since June 5, Speaker of the House Tim Moore has put a veto override bill on the calendar. He told the press that would not actually call for a vote on the bill until he was sure he had the votes. The problem was that he was never going to have the votes.

However, the morning of September 11 offered him an unusual opportunity. Many Democrats would want to attend some kind of memorial or remembrance event of the terrible terrorist attacks of 9/11/2001. Sensing that this might give Speaker Moore the opportunity he’d been looking for, the House Minority Leader Darren Jackson sought assurances that no votes would be held before noon on Wednesday. He inquired with the presiding officer Rep. David Lewis, and he received that assurance.

Yet, as soon as the Democrats were otherwise occupied, the House quickly brought the budget veto override bill up for a vote and passed it. In doing so, they relied on deceit and disrespected all those who died or suffered as a result of the 9/11 attacks. They achieved an outcome through undemocratic means. And they obviously care more about that outcome, denying the working poor access to health care, than any political fallout that might result.

The Raleigh News & Observer editorial board is scathing in their response and they urged the Senate not to follow suit in overriding the veto:

The verdict is now plain. North Carolina’s Republican legislative leaders — not actually leaders, but connivers — are beyond shame.

In a stunning display of contempt for democracy, House Speaker Tim Moore, a Cleveland County Republican, called a surprise vote to overturn Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of the state budget just after a session opened at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday. Democratic lawmakers and the media had been told by Republican leaders that there would be no vote in the morning.

Most Democrats were absent. Enough Republicans, aware of the secret plan, were there. When Rep. Jason Saine, a Lincolnton Republican, made the motion to reconsider the state budget, the handful of Democrats on hand objected strenuously…

…It’s a grim reality that there are likely no Senate Republicans who — however they may feel about the budget — would turn away from participating in this act of subterfuge. In a sense, the budget that comes before them to be made into law is the legislative equivalent of stolen goods. So what, they’ll figure, our side stole it; Democrats shouldn’t have been so trusting. Tough.

But this isn’t a case simply of hardball politics and sly legislative maneuvering. This is a case of breaking faith with the people of North Carolina and with all who strove and sacrificed over generations to protect and advance North Carolina’s political system as one based on a true representation of the people’s will, a true democracy.

And the legislation at issue isn’t a bill of limited scope. It is the state budget. It is how North Carolina defines itself by the priorities it sets in spending…

…Not only was the House vote dishonest, it was carried out by a Republican majority that courts have repeatedly found to have gained seats through illegal gerrymandering. It was an illegitimate majority acting in an unethical way. These Republicans may be incapable of shame, but North Carolinians should be outraged. First by gerrymandering and now by a high-handed vote, something new has been taken from them. It’s called democracy.

If all the Republicans in the state Senate go along with this plan, they will only need one Democrat to cross the aisle in order to override the veto and turn their budget into law. We can see that they are not above waiting until the day that some Democrats are absent to overcome this obstacle.

The North Carolina Republican Party has been repeatedly rebuked by the courts for racial gerrymandering, for restricting voting rights, and for other unconstitutional acts. There was a special election on Tuesday that was only necessary because Republican operatives had committed ballot fraud in the 2018 midterm election. When Roy Cooper was elected as governor, they responded by stripping him of the ability to appoint officers to his administration. They will clearly try any trick, violate any norm, and even break laws to get what they want.

This isn’t just a concern for the people of North Carolina. It’s an example of what the national party is capable of doing if it’s under enough duress.