Republicans and Democrats at the North Carolina General Assembly are tangled in a tense battle of wills over the state budget. And the outcome may hinge on whether the Legislature's GOP leadership can lure some Democrats to their side on a veto override.
But unlike in 2017, Republicans no longer hold a veto-proof majority. So, on paper, Cooper should have the numbers to sustain his veto. But it was House Speaker Tim Moore (R-Cleveland) who sounded confident Tuesday.
"We're very close to an override, I mean, I'm not going to give you the numbers, you know, I'm not going to do that, but we're close," Moore told reporters after the House adjourned Tuesday.
Republicans may be close to getting the Democratic votes needed for an override but they don't have them yet. Instead, Moore delayed the override vote for a second consecutive day.
If all members were present, House Republicans would need seven Democrats to defect for the three-fifths needed.
Meanwhile, Rep. Darren Jackson (D-Wake) bemoaned what he called another wasted day where the session dragged on as Republicans scrambled to line up override votes, only to put off the issue.
At one point, Jackson cited House rules to try and get Speaker Moore to stick to the calendar's order rather than make every Democrat wait in their seats, lest they get caught outside the chamber and unintentionally help the override succeed.
"I am really just simply asking for one thing, and that is to be able to have a member step outside and go to the restroom without worrying about you voting on the veto override," Jackson said during Tuesday's session, objecting to the way the speaker was managing the calendar.
Like Jackson, Governor Cooper said Republicans should stop trying to override the veto and just start negotiating.
Cooper unveiled a compromise budget plan Tuesday morning, hoping that a failed override would force Republicans to the table.
Cooper said he and Democratic leaders in the Legislature would no longer insist that funding for school construction come only from a voter-approved bond but also from an existing capital fund that Republicans prefer.
"We are willing to compromise and maintain private school vouchers for those who use them now," Cooper said, "but propose we do not include any additional money for future private school vouchers."
Cooper also said his compromise proposal would accept the change in the income tax standard deduction in the GOP plan but would eliminate corporate franchise tax cut backed by Republicans.
Cooper's plan also includes Medicaid expansion, a major sticking point for Moore and other Republicans.
"Funding our schools, funding our roads, all these things, that this is even being held up over one issue of Medicaid is ridiculous, that's just not responsible," Moore said.
For now, Republicans will continue trying to get Democratic override votes with the promise of earmarks like promising the relocation of the state Department of Health and Human Services headquarters from Wake County.
Speaker Moore has also allowed a Medicaid expansion-like bill onto the house calendar, though it includes premiums and work requirements.