The rage and indignation that many GOP lawmakers directed at Gov. Jan Brewer at the end of the legislative session may be nothing but a bad memory when the Legislature reconvenes next year.
Conservative lawmakers who opposed her Medicaid expansion plan were enraged when Brewer and her allies orchestrated a surprise special session to pass the controversial plan. Critics accused Brewer of staging a coup and said she was betraying the Republican Party.
Though many say that anger will linger on, most conservative lawmakers say it won’t blow back on Brewer when she needs Republican votes next year.
House Speaker Andy Tobin, R-Paulden, said the relationship between Brewer and rank-and-file lawmakers has been damaged. And he will never believe that the special session was necessary.
But Tobin said he didn’t think Republican lawmakers would vote against Brewer’s priorities for the sake of retaliation.
“The members down there are still professionals,” Tobin said. “The trust factor has been hurt. But the truth is, we deal with people all the time and we still have a responsibility to the citizens to move forward with public policy and do well with our budget priorities. Sometimes you have to put those things aside and move forward. And that’s what I expect to do.”
Rep. Warren Petersen, a vociferous opponent of Medicaid expansion, said GOP lawmakers will continue to vote for Brewer’s priorities based on whether they support her policies.
“It’s all going to hinge on the priorities that are set at the beginning of the next session. That’s going to be the bottom line,” said Petersen, R-Gilbert.
Many anti-expansion lawmakers pointed to HB2111, the transaction privilege tax reform bill championed by Brewer, as an example of the lack of retaliation they expect toward the governor next year. On the last day of session, Rep. Karen Fann, one of the bill’s lead negotiators, said several Republicans told her they would no longer vote for the bill because they were upset with Brewer.
But when HB2111 went up on the big board, it received a unanimous vote in the Senate and had only one lawmaker vote against it in the House.
“Even at the end of this session, as intense as it was … we voted out TPT almost unanimously. So I think that’s a great indicator that ego did not come into play enough to kill that bill,” Petersen said.
Several Republicans, including Rep. Kelly Townsend, said on the House and Senate floors that even though they were extremely upset with Brewer, they couldn’t vote against a good bill just because it was one of her priorities.
“My conservative colleagues will not vote out of vengeance,” said Townsend, R-Mesa. “We vote based on what’s good for the people, regardless of how we feel about someone. And I don’t think that will change next year.”
Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, said most members still vote based on the actual bills. And if they’re inclined to vote against Brewer’s priorities for the sake of opposing her, he said, there are practical reasons not to antagonize the governor.
“There were a lot of hard feelings. On the other hand, she can veto everybody’s bills, so I don’t think a lot of people are going to be overtly hostile to her,” he said. “I think most members will vote based on the bill’s merits. I suppose on some borderline bills, some ill feelings might push the finger to the red for some people. But I don’t see any massive attempt at retaliation.”
However, not everyone agreed that Brewer will escape unscathed.
Rep. David Gowan, R-Sierra Vista, predicted that some members will hold the special session against the governor when her agenda comes up for a vote next year.
“It’s a wait-and-see on all that stuff,” said Gowan, the House majority leader. “Time heals wounds. There’s no doubt. However, this is pretty deep when you go to the core of our party and rip out a piece of our core and you vote with the opposite party and their core being. That’s what happened here. So yeah, there’s a lot of angry members who are sad at what had occurred.”
And one other factor may encourage lawmakers who would normally be disinclined to retaliate against the governor — 2014 will be her last year.
“You’re just not worried about the future. The hammer gets smaller,” Petersen said. “I would think in general that people are less fearful of … retaliation.”
Rough and tumble
Brewer said she thinks her relationship with leadership and rank-and-file lawmakers who opposed Medicaid will be fine. The governor predicted that legislators’ anger over the special session won’t lead them to oppose her on other issues next year.
“We might not agree on policy and getting to the answer 100 percent all the time with each other. But I think that, given time, that the healing will take place and we’ll move back and we’ll all work together,” Brewer said.
The governor and her staff noted that when she held a June 25 signing ceremony for her TPT bill, several staunchly anti-expansion lawmakers stood with her.
“Those of us that have been in the sausage-making business, we know that it gets rough and tumble, and then you come back, you regroup and you move forward,” she said.