UPDATED at 2:35 p.m. with House Minority Leader Rep. Renny Cushing, D-Hampton’s comments at the end of Thursday.
By GARRY RAYNO, InDepthNH.org
BEDFORD — Before the session began Thursday, House Speaker Sherman Packard discussed what happened during Wednesday’s chaotic session that ended with many Democrats walking out when a second anti-abortion bill scheduled for Thursday was brought forward for action yesterday.
Packard Wednesday ordered the doors locked at the NH Sportsplex in Bedford to maintain a quorum but also locked some Democrats out who sought to return. This week’s sessions are being held at the giant complex to maintain social distancing.
Packard said mistakes were made and said they need to see if action needs to be taken so that it never happens again to another Speaker from either party.
“Was I wrong, or was I right?” Packard said. “What happened should never happen again.”
He said the friction between the two parties is the greatest he has ever seen and the partisanship the highest with members of one party not wanting to work with members of the other.
“Why when we disagree on an issue do we think that person is an enemy,” Packard said, “and not just someone who just thinks differently.”
He said he hoped they could put yesterday behind them and move on as colleagues and stop attacking each other.
“Legislation is going to get passed that the Democratic caucus hates. Last session, legislation was passed that the Republican caucus hated,” Packard said. “That’s just the way it works.”
He said everyone in the House loves the institution and no one loves it more than another.
“It is my sincere hope we can move on and move on in a respectful, friendly way and hope to God some things that happened yesterday, never happen again,” Packard said. “I would like to go over to extend my hand to leader (Democrat Renny) Cushing if he’ll accept it and see if we can put yesterday behind us.”
There was scattered applause after the two shook hands.
Release from House Minority Leader Cushing:
“What we expect when we go to session is for spirited, sometimes heated debate on policies that we all care deeply about. What we do not expect, and will not tolerate, is the outright bullying and silencing displayed by the Republican Majority this week.
Wednesday’s session culminated with a motion by the Majority Leader implying that an anti-choice bill was not deserving of anyone’s time and attention and should immediately “just be dealt with” with little debate and consideration.
When some Democrats decided to leave session instead of supporting their partisan, radical games, the Speaker locked the doors, trapping members outside. Democratic Members were not allowed back in the chamber for numerous votes, even after the Speaker was informed multiple times that they were trying to get back in.
This morning, the Speaker claimed that when he became aware of the desire of members to return, he allowed them back in. This is not true, as the session video on the General Court website will clearly show when it is uploaded. The same week that the Speaker permitted Republican members who defy public health orders to attend session, he locked the doors and barred Democrats from entering the chamber and voting.
In his speech, the Speaker also implored everyone in the chamber to act with civility, pleading with us to not put hateful and incendiary content on social media. I completely agree with this request.
The Speaker’s speech failed to address the communications sent out Wednesday night by his Majority Leader, Representative Jason Osborne (R-Auburn), that claimed Democrats would be “out for blood after their violent insurrection.” I find it hard to imagine any language that would be more inflammatory and dangerous than this, and by failing to address it this morning the Speaker effectively endorsed the words of the radical element of his party. I do not understand what Representative Osborne found so threatening about members deciding to peacefully walk out of the chamber. Maybe he was taken aback by all of the women in our caucus who continued to rise throughout the day and challenge the repeated attempts to silence and bully them.”
Garry Rayno may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.