Video: Democrats Are Really, Really Angry About Senate Vacancies Bill


It’s remarkable how riled up North Dakota Democrats are about legislation which would change how the state fills Senate vacancies.

Rep. Roscoe Streyle (R-Minot) has introduced legislation to fill vacancies in the state’s U.S. Senate seats with special elections rather than gubernatorial appointments. It’s sound reform given some of the recent shenanigans we’ve seen with Senate appointments (the filling of President Barack Obama’s former Senate seat as one example), but Democrats hate the bill.

Dem-NPL executive director Chad Oban called the bill “politics at its absolute worst” earlier this year, and some Democrat lawmakers staged some shenanigans earlier today when the bill came before committee.

Rep. Mary Schneider and Rep. Kris Wallman, both Democrats from Fargo, tried to offer amendments to the bill. One would have changed the way vacancies in the state legislature are filled, and the other would have changed the way vacancies in statewide offices are filled.

Neither amendment was successful, and Democrats whined a little bit about the process. Of course, if they want to control how committee hearings go, maybe they should try winning some elections? They complained about not having enough time to consider the bill, yet they had enough time to ready not one but two amendments for submission? You can see in the video that Wallman and Schneider had amendment packets prepared for the committee.

It’s almost like they staged the whole thing for the cameras in the room. Makes me wonder if some Democrat tipped off KFYR to show up and film the spectacle.

Really the amendments had no bearing on the issue at hand. Streyle’s bill deals with vacancies in the federal legislative branch. It is appropriate that the Governor appoint vacancies in the state executive branch, which he is the head of, but much less appropriate is the idea that the governor should get to appoint someone to the federal legislative branch.

But why let facts and reality get in the way of partisan stagecraft?

Which brings us to the question of why Democrats are so worked up about this bill. It’s pretty clear from their reaction that they expect Senator Heidi Heitkamp to attempt a run at governor in 2016, and they want a twofer if she wins: Heidi in the governor’s seat, and Heidi’s hand-selected appointment in the U.S. Senate seat.

Which is pretty indefensible, and ironic given Oban’s aforementioned grumping about “politics.” Why should Democrats automatically get the Senate seat if Heitkamp should win the governorship? Which is a long shot anyway, given that Heitkamp won her Senate seat by the slimmest of margins in 2012 and would likely be facing some blowback from voters over not finishing her Senate term before running for another office.

Streyle’s bill ultimately got a 8-6 “do pass” recommendation from the committee, and now heads to a full House vote where it will almost certainly be successful after no small amount of bellyaching from Democrats.