Profiles in Courage — or Cowardice?

Speaker Harwell
Speaker Harwell

There have been growing complaints about the leadership in general, and Speaker Harwell specifically, among the members of the House Republican caucus.  Whenever there is a controversial issue that leadership or the governor do not want to address or to pass, the leadership has been more than willing to use every trick at their disposal that would allow them to hang on just a little while longer against the growing number of conservative caucus members.  We are witnessing a replay of the final days of Jimmy Naifeh, when knowing the day was nigh that Republicans would take over the House, the Speaker Emeritus would use every underhanded and dishonest legislative device to forestall the Dems’ day of reckoning.

So it is now with Harwell and her team.  The heathens have demonstrated they have the numbers and now realize they can overwhelm Harwell & Co when they hang together.  All that is left to the speaker is the gross abuse of the fiscal note process, dubious scheduling, delaying votes until the last second to make it more difficult to pass a bill, etc.  God forbid that she would actually allow the legislative process proceed as the state constitution meant for it to operate.  She has turned her management of the House into a Tennessee version of Harry Reid’s thuggish management of the U.S. Senate.

But Harwell really outdid herself last week, when faced with a committee hearing that would have required legislators to focus on judicial retention before the August primary (where Speaker Ron Ramsey is trying to throw out three Democrat Supreme Court justices), Harwell decided to cancel the entire hearing and move it to September.  How convenient.

You know you’re busted when Frank Daniels The Third of the Tennessean calls you out:

Does anybody care about the law?

We should never be surprised when political leaders flex their muscle, but to see it done in order to sweep their own bad behavior under the rug it exacerbates our natural disgust — I mean distrust.

When Speaker of the House Beth Harwell, R-Nashville, exercised Rule 80, Section 5 of the House rules to cancel a Government Operations subcommittee meeting next Tuesday, she prevented legislators from examining why she and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey failed to follow the law in their appointment of the members of the Judicial Performance Evaluation Commission, the body that has the authority to determine whether appellate judges can stand for retention election.

The Tennessean has bent over backward (or is it “bent over forward?”) to protect the so-called “moderate” Republican governor and his allies like Harwell.  So for them to call out Harwell for her abuse and cowardice is definitely a story.

Harwell is treading on thin ice here.  And hiding behind Rule 80, fiscal notes and Jimmy Naifeh is not going to get the job done — and could potentially cost Harwell her job in the process.

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