For weeks the New Hampshire media have been reporting the fact that Gov. Chris Sununu’s 55 vetoes (and counting?) set a new record for the number of vetoes by a governor in a single session. It now looks likely Sununu will set another record:
The most sustained vetoes. And he’s doing it with a legislature controlled by the other party.
Much of the credit has to go to House GOP leader Rep. Dick Hinch.
“New Hampshire Republicans are united in stopping extreme legislation, and House Republican Leader Hinch deserves immense credit for delivering these victories today,” Gov. Chris Sununu told NHJournal.
Thanks to both high GOP House attendance on Wednesday and a unified voting strategy, only one of the 24 vetoes the House voted on was overridden. And that bill — which would allow Granite Staters to grow up to three pot plants at home — is almost certain to be sustained by the state senate.
Team Sununu wasted no time celebrating their Veto Day, Round One success, sending out a press release with the simple headline, “23-1.”
The governor’s office also noted that 87.5 percent of the votes to sustain the vetoes had bipartisan support.
“I could not be more proud of our caucus today, and I’d like to thank them for their hard work over the last few weeks,” Hinch told NHJournal. “This session has had an onslaught of extreme legislation: raising taxes and fees, jeopardizing the integrity of our elections, making criminals out of responsible gun-owners, adding mandates and restrictions on business. We will continue to have our governor’s back and the backs of New Hampshire citizens, and we look forward to continuing to hold the line tomorrow.”
New Hampshire Democrats have been trying to use Sununu’s infamous red veto pen against him, portraying him as an autocrat subverting the will of the people. At their state convention, both local and national Democrats denounced Sununu’s “extreme” use of the veto pen as Democrats in the crowd waved “Veto Sununu” signs.
“The people of New Hampshire elect representatives from their community to be a voice for their community in Concord. Today’s votes made clear that House Republicans are not a voice for their community, they are simply a voice for Governor Sununu,” said House Majority Leader Doug Ley.
But if Republicans stay united, the veto issue could be a huge win for the governor and a terrible setback for his legislative opponents. As one Democratic state rep told the Concord Monitor’s Ethan DeWitt, “It’s like we’re in the minority again.”
This devastating series of defeats — which is almost certain to continue Thursday — raises the same question for state house Democrats that Tuesday’s Corey Lewandowski fiasco in Washington raises about their DC counterparts: What was your plan? Did you have a strategy when you started this?
Sununu made no secret of his position on these bills. Instead of compromises or deal cutting, Democrats chose to pass legislation they knew he would veto. They also knew they didn’t have a veto-proof majority. What were Speaker Steve Shurtleff, Senate President Donna Soucy and Senate Majority Leader Dan Feltes thinking?
They were apparently betting on NHGOP dysfunction as part of their override strategy. And after last year’s disarray among the House Republican majority, it looked like a pretty good bet. But Rep. Hinch wrangled the GOP cats into their roll calls and now Democrats are stuck with the results.
The first is that virtually every House Democrat has now voted repeatedly for higher electricity bills, higher taxes and restrictions on gun rights — and with nothing to show for it. At least 10 of these House members are in Republican districts. This is not good news for November 2020.
The more immediate result is that Sununu has a much stronger hand in the current budget fight. Democrats can’t pass a budget without GOP support and it’s clear they’re not going to get it. GOP unity is forcing Feltes to go back to the governor and cut a deal. Or he and the Democrats can continue to try to fight the budget battle with the broader public and generate pressure on Sununu and the GOP.
Good luck with that. Even if the media weren’t obsessed with the 2020 election and President Trump’s twitter feed, Sununu’s got a strong argument: “The Democrats want to raise your taxes and pass a budget with a built-in deficit that will eventually force us to raise them even more. I won’t let them.”
Democrats disagree, of course. That’s politics.
But whatever it is the Democratic leadership has been doing the past nine months is something else entirely.