The big question about Governor Pat McCrory when he was elected in November was which McCrory voters had sent to Raleigh, the moderately conservative former mayor of Charlotte who supported mass transit and other important public investments and didn’t seem too interested in the social agenda of the religious right or the hard right candidate who appeared at tea party rallies against the Affordable Care Act and made robocalls for American for Prosperity.
The answer is still not clear. McCrory has been trying to bob back and forth between the two in his first six months in office, though he’s been governing more from the far right than the right of center from where the traditional, conservative Republicans like former governors Jim Martin and Jim Holshouser led North Carolina.
Not only did McCrory hire Art Pope, North Carolina’s version of a Koch Brother, as state budget director, the legislation he has signed so far includes measures to reject a federally funded expansion of Medicaid that would have provided health care to 500,000 low-income adults, deny emergency unemployment benefits to 170,000 laid off workers and repeal the Racial Justice Act that addressed the compelling evidence of racial bias in the capital punishment system.
Sounds like the hard right tea party Pat.
McCrory has teetered back toward common sense once in a while, most notably with his insistence that any tax reform package be revenue neutral so it does not require even more budget cuts to the already woefully underfunded public schools, universities, and community colleges.
That sounded a little like the former mayor, but it didn’t last long. McCrory recently changed his definition of revenue neutral. Now it apparently means enough money to fund what he thinks ought to be funded, which will apparently allow him to support a Pope-inspired regressive tax shift plan that reduces state revenue by a minimum of hundreds of millions of dollars a year.
McCrory’s first six months have also been marked by his struggle to remain relevant while legislative leaders grab most of the headlines with radical proposals that McCrory ends up signing in quiet, private ceremonies out of the public eye.
All that changes now with the unprecedented assault on women’s reproductive rights passed by the Senate last week and by the House on Thursday afternoon. McCrory said during the campaign that he would not sign any legislation that put further restrictions on access to abortion services in North Carolina.
That seems pretty clear.
Yet it took McCrory almost a week to say he would veto the sweeping anti-abortion bill that passed the Senate. His statement prompted the House to pass a slightly different version of the same legislation that House leaders said had been worked out with officials in McCrory’s administration.
But the House bill, like the Senate plan before it, clearly and unmistakably restricts access to abortion services for women in North Carolina.
It forbids local governments from providing abortion coverage in their employees’ health plans, prohibits insurance plans offered by the health exchanges under the Affordable Care Act from covering abortion services and tells state officials to come up with new regulations for abortion clinics that could force all but one clinic in the state to close.
Supporters of the bill disingenuously claim that the goal is only to improve the safety of the clinics for women, but Rep. Paul Stam, a longtime anti-abortion rights crusader, admitted on WRAL-TV that part of the reason for the legislation was to limit access to abortions as much as they could.
That sounds like explicit grounds for a McCrory veto according to the clear promise McCrory made during the campaign.
The claim by House leaders that the administration is on board with the House version of the attack on women’s rights raises the possibility that McCrory will pander to the radical right by either signing the bill or letting it become law without his signature and then say he didn’t break his campaign promise.
That may well be the plan, but it won’t work.
If McCrory signs the House bill or anything close to it, it’s his bill then. His name will be on it and he will be denying thousands of women in the state access to legal medical procedures, something he promised not to do.
And will be definitively answering the “which McCrory was elected” question. All eyes are on the governor’s mansion now.
Chris Fitzsimon is the Executive Director at NC Policy Watch.