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Branstad calls Iowa House Democrats’ walkout unfortunate, but doesn’t plan to get involved

This news story was published on February 29, 2012.
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James Q. Lynch, The Gazette, Cedar Rapids, Iowa –

UPDATE: A walk-out by the Iowa House Democratic caucus this morning is unfortunate, Gov. Terry Branstad said, but he doesn’t plan to involve himself in the feud over a debate on gun rights legislation.

“No. I think this is really a legislative issue,” Branstad said after speaking at a House ceremony to mark Black History Month. The tribute was cut short in light of the Democratic walk-out. Republicans said it may be rescheduled.

The 40-member Iowa House Democratic caucus left the Capitol about 10 a.m. to protest what they called their betrayal by the Republican majority that decided this morning to debate controversial gun rights legislation.

“We’ve been doubled-crossed,” said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, D-Des Moines, just before he led his 40-member caucus out of the Statehouse.

“That’s ridiculous. That’s absolutely ridiculous,” House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, R-Hiawatha, said.

Paulsen said he hopes to hear from McCarthy soon and the House can get back to work.

“I would like to think they will work through whatever they need to work through and their leader will give me a call at some point in time and let me know when they are ready to go and we will move forward,” Paulsen said.

“We have a responsibility to run the institution and he does, too,” the speaker said.

Branstad, a former Republican House member, also called the walk-out unfortunate.

“I know it’s been done in Wisconsin and Indiana and some other states. It’s not been successful,” he said. “I just think most people think we were elected to serve and you should be there when duty calls.”

No one could remember a previous walk-out at the Legislature. Former Senate Majority Leader Cal Hultman, a Red Oak Republican, recalled Democrats went to caucus once in the early 1980s and spent most of the day at a baseball game at Sec Taylor Stadium. Sen. Wally Horn, D-Cedar Rapids, who was in the House until 1983, said that may have been for recreational purposes and not issue-related.

In 2007, Senate Republicans didn’t walk out, but had an overnight caucus — complete with sleeping bags — to protest the Democratic majority taking up “fair share” labor legislation.

In this case, the legislation that sparked the Democratic protest were House File 2215, a bill on the justifiable use of reasonable force to defend oneself, and House Joint Resolution 2009, proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the State of Iowa relating to an individual’s right to keep and bear arms.

McCarthy gave no indication of how long his caucus would stay away, and Democratic lawmakers declined to answer questions as they left the building shortly before 10 a.m.

Later, he issued a statement to explain Democrats “believe too strongly in our Constitution and have too much respect for the legislative process to allow this misuse of power to occur unchecked.”

Speaking to reporters, McCarthy said, House Majority Leader Linda Upmeyer, R-Garner, gave him a list of bills Tuesday she might call up for debate Wednesday.

Under House rules, bills approved by a committee go on the “white calendar.” After three days, they may be out on the “blue calendar” and are eligible for floor debate the following day. Representatives have until 4:30 p.m. or 30 minutes after adjournment to file amendments to those bills eligible for debate the following day.

“We put a blue calendar on the desk every single day and every one of those bills is eligible for debate,” Upmeyer said. “So I don’t know how they were double-crossed. If we hadn’t put it on the blue calendar and (we) wanted to suspend the rules that would be double-crossing them.”

McCarthy insists Democrats had been led to believe the constitutional amendment and so-called “Castle Doctrine” giving Iowans the right to defend themselves would not be debated today.

But when the parties went into their routine closed-door meetings to discuss pending legislation, McCarthy said, he was told that the gun bills would be debated “whether we like it or not.”

“I said ‘You will not be debating it today,’” McCarthy said. “We’ve been betrayed. We are in protest leaving the building now.”

“None of that is accurate,” Upmeyer said about McCarthy’s recollection of events.

She had indicated to McCarthy there were several non-controversial bills on the blue calendar “and we could certainly caucus on those and certainly be ready for debate,” Upmeyer said.

“We hadn’t caucused. I said ‘I’ll let you know when we’re done caucusing,’” she said, noting that Democrats have filed amendments to those bills.

Wednesday morning she told McCarthy Republicans were caucusing on those bills “and we’d like to debate it today.”

“I just don’t know what the surprise is,” Upmeyer said. She recalled that when the GOP was in the minority and Democrats were proposing labor law changes “we prepared for every bill on the calendar, every bill we genuinely cared for.”

Paulsen and Upmeyer said they would try to contact McCarthy “and try to figure out what’s going on,” Upmeyer said.

“We have 100 members here and they represent 30,000 people each,” Paulsen said. “The preferred method is to have them here. Hopefully they will be back here at a reasonable time and we can move forward with the debate.”

Paulsen isn’t sure what impact the walk-out would have on inter-party relations for the remainder of the session. Lawmakers’ daily expense money runs out April 17.

“Iowans expect us to go to work. Republicans are ready to do that,” Paulsen said. “It seems to me it would be better to have a floor debate. Leaving the Capitol doesn’t sound to me like what Iowans expect us to do.”

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7 Responses to Branstad calls Iowa House Democrats’ walkout unfortunate, but doesn’t plan to get involved

  1. Larry Reply Report comment

    March 1, 2012 at 10:51 am

    Hicks-I am not a republican but I am a Independent and I do vote. Being a Independent means I can see both sides and decide for myself which is better. I don’t and won’t vote for anyone just because they are one party or the other. People that vote straifgt party tickets are nothin more than Lemmings in my opinion. Now, I am will to bet that I have been in Iowa a hell of a lot longer than you so, take your communists ideas and get the HELL out of my state.

  2. Anonymous Reply Report comment

    March 1, 2012 at 10:41 am


    You let the Republicans take advantage of their control of Iowa House and railroad legislation without a proper debate. Hell, they’re afraid of debate.

    Vote the Republicans out of office, and the rest of you red state hicks get the hell out of Iowa.

    • msgordy Reply Report comment

      March 1, 2012 at 7:19 pm

      This was because of the”stand your ground” Law. Basically it means you have the “right” to defend yourself instead of a “duty to retreat” I am an independent but I think anyone who is elected and walks out like that should in the least be fined a substantial amount. Everyone who has worked for a living has to deal with things we don’t like on a daily basis. We don’t have the option to walk out like they did when things don’t go our way. This is NOT an admirable way to be an elected official..

  3. Emanresu Reply Report comment

    March 1, 2012 at 10:16 am

    CRY BABY LIBERALS ! Vote them all out next election, especially Gronstal !

  4. Larry Reply Report comment

    March 1, 2012 at 9:00 am

    I listened to the democrats excuses this morning on the news and that was all they were. They were sent there to represent all of the people, not just their party. Each one that walked out should be forced to resign. What are they a bunch of children who run away when there is something they don’t like. Are they afraid to debate all issues. We pay them to make decisions, not run away like little children.

  5. Anonymous Reply Report comment

    February 29, 2012 at 10:14 pm

    Those stupid Democrats. Why act like a bunch of imbeciles?
    This solves nothing.

    Whats wrong with debating the right to defend yourself in your own home? Makes no sense at all.