‘Deplorable’ conduct on failed veto override of paid family leave aired on House floor by Dem who broke ranks

Linda Joy Sullivan

State Rep. Cynthia Browning, D-Arlington, speaks from the floor of the Vermont House of Representatives in 2019.

By Guy Page

The failure of House Speaker Mitzi Johnson and House Majority Leader Jill Krowinski to deliver an override of Gov. Phil Scott’s veto of H.107, paid family leave, has them pondering a more successful strategy to override the governor’s latest veto — S.23, increasing the minimum wage to $12.55 by 2022.

Guy Page

The rest of their bright-and-shiny legislative agenda — aggressive climate change legislation, gun control, commercial cannabis — are all good candidates for a gubernatorial veto.

When the 2020 session began, many observers thought the overwhelming coalition of Democrats and Progressives could force moderate “Gov. Flip Flop” Phil Scott into accepting whatever bills reached his desk. Overrides seemed likely because even if the Dem/Prog caucus somehow failed to muster the necessary 100 votes, friendly independents and a disaffected Republican or two would probably ride to the rescue.

Instead, the Republicans stood as one and almost all of the independents opposed paid family leave.

Worst of all, from leadership’s point-of-view, four stubborn Democrats voted no and then had the nerve to push back publicly when criticized by leadership and some media. Monday, Rep. Cynthia Browning, D-Arlington, rose on the floor of the House to deliver this verbal spanking:

Madame Speaker, I rise to express my disappointment in the behavior and public comments of the leadership of the majority caucus, which is my party, and of you yourself both before and after the recent vote on H.107 that sustained the governor’s veto.

I find the obvious efforts to flip member’s votes beforehand unseemly and disrespectful. I find the apparent efforts to find someone who voted no who would be willing to ask for a reconsideration afterward similarly deplorable. Were promises of rewards or threats of retribution made in these meetings? If so, that is standard political hardball, and unsurprising, but it is no less deplorable.

And I find the public comments by yourself and your leadership team that seek to blame particular legislators for your own failures of both substance and process even more deplorable. In our system if the legislative majority cannot get the governor to agree with a piece of legislation they must get support from two-thirds of the House. Apparently you failed to convince enough of us and you failed to manipulate the date of the vote in your favor successfully, as absences of those opposing did not occur. Will you be using the same bullying tactics in future veto overrides? You need to take responsibility for your own miscalculations rather than scapegoat individual legislators who had their own good reasons to vote no on H.107.

I believe that the first duty of any representative is to put their judgement and knowledge to work in service to their constituents within the framework of the U.S. Constitution and the Vermont Constitution. This dedication is the foundation of our democracy. You should honor it rather than using your power to undermine it, even when that service goes against your plans. Your behavior did a disservice to the House and to your party, which is also mine.

I ask you to accept that in the judgment of many H.107 was deeply flawed. I ask you to accept that the Administration has put in place a modest voluntary Paid Family and Medical Leave program that is designed to allow any Vermonter to obtain the same benefits that will be available to state workers. Let us work together to ensure that this new program works well for the Vermonters who need it. We can revisit the generosity and financing of the program in the future. And I hope that we can face future veto override votes with respect and civility, even as we disagree.

Right there on the House floor, Rep. Browning dropped the D-word — deplorable — three times. Ouch.

Predictably, after the H.107 override debacle word started circulating that the Vermont Democratic Party might try to punish their own “no’s” with committee reappointments or, more likely, a challenger in the August primary. VTDigger political columnist John Walters couldn’t get anyone on the record to say the local party apparatus will seek challengers, but wrote Feb. 11 that “off the record, local Dems are working hard to find some competition” for Rep. Chris Bates, D-Bennington, a no on H.107. Using his Vermont Political Observer handle, Walters himself engaged in a Twitter skirmish with no-vote Randall Szott, D-Barnard, saying “you just stand outside and snipe.” Szott fired back that “if trying to hold leadership accountable for their mistakes is ‘sniping,’ then I guess I don’t know what the word means these days.”

However hard the party tries to push the unreliables into the oncoming traffic of a primary, for darn sure it will seek a safely insuperable caucus in the November general election. H.107 no-vote Linda Joy Sullivan’s Bennington-Rutland seat will be up for grabs, as the lawyer/CPA is running for state auditor. Will the Dems find a more “reliable” candidate? Will Republicans seek to regain the seat once held by House Speaker Walt Freed? Stay Tuned.

Read more of Guy Page’s reports.

Image courtesy of Linda Joy Sullivan

8 thoughts on “‘Deplorable’ conduct on failed veto override of paid family leave aired on House floor by Dem who broke ranks

  1. There are some American loving democrats with backbones, brains and the ability to make a compelling argument. It’s so great to see somebody willing to stand up for something against the Borg. Kudo’s to you Ms. Browning.

    • For sure, I certainly didn’t see eye to eye with Ms. Browning when I lived in VT, I however had the utmost respect for her. She is by far one the sharpest legislators in VT on either side of the isle.

  2. What is this?

    It is just outrageous, any House member is allowed to act as a public scolder of other members who do not agree with the official Dem/Prog AGENDA.

    It should be forbidden by House rules, or the Speaker should prevent such unseemly outbursts.

    This is like Pelosi tearing up a state of the union speech, because she is mad at herself for allowing the extremely biased House impeachment to go forward.

    It resulted in a steady increase in Trump’s approval ratings to over 50%, better than Obama at the end of his first term.

    That was followed by the fiasco in Iowa, which saw Biden and Warren implode, which those two repeated in New Hampshire. They are goners!

    The last thing the Dems want is to have Communist/Socialist Sanders run against capitalist Trump, which Trump would win by a landslide.

    A potential Trump landslide is the reason Bloomberg is awkwardly buying his way into the presidency.

    • Browning is starting to sound like the world-famous Schiff, the hateful, sleazy, impeach till we die, fanatic.

      PAID family leave?
      Who pays?
      Who gets?
      Is there a cap to the getting?
      The Vermont sucked-dry tax payer pays again and again?

      Browning is a career legislator, who thinks all others must do her bidding.
      Time to retire or be replaced, ASAP.

      How are these $600,000 electric buses working out?
      Just throwing money down a rathole.

  3. I am a Conservative, but I am glad to see that there is a Democrat in Montpelier that still
    understands they work for there constituents and there well being and not some agenda
    driven nonsense from Progressive Democrats

    Rep. Cynthia Browning, thanks for standing your ground for your Constituents !!

  4. It’s refreshing to see that there are some but unfortunately woefully too few clear thinking Dems in Montpelier.

  5. We need to Put Mitzi, Pelosi, and Trump in a cage together, they are all deplorable with their actions.

  6. I support Mr. Bates, Ms Browning, and Ms Sabilia for their votes and not falling under the pressure of the leadership! They are elected to represent their constituents, not the Democratic Party alone!

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