Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom, the Democrat who abandoned his caucus to lead a Republican majority, has issued a statement explaining his plot to make an end-run around today's state supreme court decision. That ruling found a two-thirds voting requirement is unconstitutional. But Senator Tom says never mind: tweaking parliamentary rules could mandate a nearly-impossible-to-attain two-thirds majority for any tax increases. Here's his statement:
“If citizens have wondered why the Majority Coalition Caucus is so important, this is why; today’s decision underlies the need for our emphasis on reforms and spending restraint,” said Senate Majority Leader Rodney Tom, D-Bellevue. “The people didn’t send us to Olympia to look for ways to tax them more. To solidify our commitment to the voters we are exploring what rule changes we can make in the Senate to guarantee that the will of the people will be respected and that any increase in revenue will require broad bipartisan support and a two-thirds vote in the Senate.”
I'm not entirely clear what rule change Senator Tom is considering, or what sort of vote is required to ratify it. If they do this by a simple majority, it's going to stink. But obviously the senate retains some independent power over its affairs: Republicans and a handful of turncoat Democrats formed a "majority caucus" at the outset of this year's session to select committee chairs. I have calls in to Senator Tom and Lt. Governor Brad Owen, who presides over the senate, to ask how this could work.
But if they do push though a rule change... would that be unconstitutional too?