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State Democrats rush a vote as GOP Senator steps away to nurse her baby

Democrats are accused of making a power play and rushing a key vote when Republican Senator Janea Holmquist Newbry left the floor this week to nurse her four-month-old child. (Photo courtesy Holmquist Newbry's election website)

When a Republican state senator left the floor to nurse her newborn son, Democrats seized the opportunity for a quick vote without her.

Washington State Wire reporter Erik Smith, who is covering his 14th legislative session in Olympia, has an interesting account of what happened on the State Senate floor Tuesday when Janea Holmquist Newbry, from Moses Lake, stepped away to feed her baby.

Listen to an interview with the reporter above. Smith says the bill they were rushing a vote on wasn’t particularly important but Democrats wanted to push it through because the person behind it hadn’t had any legislative success so far this session.

Smith writes:

During a mid-afternoon session, as the Senate was debating a routine series of bills, Holmquist Newbry left the floor to care for her four-month-old son Makaio, who had been brought to the women’s lounge off the Senate floor. Sen. Jim Honeyford, R-Sunnyside, moved to excuse Holmquist Newbry from voting. That meant the majority coalition had 24 votes, not 25, and they were tied at least temporarily with the Senate Democratic Caucus.

Sen. David Frockt, D-Seattle, took advantage of the moment. He rose to demand an immediate vote on a bill sponsored by a Democrat that did not appear on the afternoon schedule.

The unusual motion quieted the chamber. Members rushed to their seats. Frockt demanded a roll-call vote. The assumption was that Lt. Gov. Brad Owen, a Democrat, would cast a tiebreaking vote to advance the bill to the floor.

Members of the Senate Democratic Caucus voted yes as their names were called. Members of the Majority Coalition Caucus voted no. And just in time, Holmquist Newbry emerged from the lounge to cast her vote. The motion failed 25-24.

State Senator Ann Rivers, also a Republican, is quoted as saying, “I think it is shameful for them to make her choose between being on the floor and voting and nursing her child. This caucus, which presents itself as being the caucus of families, would willingly drive a wedge between a mother and her infant? I think that is shameful. Just shameful. And deeply disappointing.”

I’ve asked Senator Holmquist Newbry for a comment on the floor vote that happened as she left to nurse her child.

She was first elected to the Senate in 2006, after serving 3 terms as the 13th District’s state representative. At 31, she became the youngest female state senator elected in the state’s history. Holmquist Newbry chairs the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee

This drama, mild or major depending on who’s recounting what happened, is not the first sign of political squabbling during the current legislative session.

The head of the Washington State Democrats said last month Top Democrat state senators are ‘not invited to our party.’

Which led to this email from the wife of one of the senators who told the head of the Democratic party to Put on your big boy panties.

Senator Rodney Tom – one of the two Democrats who joined the Republicans this year – says, “It’s all ‘Kum ba yah’ here in the Senate. At the beginning of the session, we formed the Majority Coalition Caucus because we wanted to move away from partisan bickering and gridlock and work together, regardless of party affiliation, in a constructive collaborative manner that moves our great state forward.”

At the halfway point in the session, the Senate passed 276 bills by the deadline, and Tom says most of the bills passed with broad bipartisan support.


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