According to Republican legislators Reps. Mark Baker, R-Brandon, and Rita Martinson, R-Madison, the House Management Committee never voted to approve the expenditure. Worse than than, there’s no precedent for spending taxpayer dollars to pay the expenses of a state legislator to attend a partisan national political convention – Democrat or Republican.
The decision to authorize a House travel voucher for Ellis for unprecedented political travel expenses at taxpayer expense without a House Management Committee vote makes the current House leadership regime look less than honest.
But the quick reversal of that decision after Republicans in the minority began to point fingers makes McCoy’s leadership regime look weak – and from a long-term political standpoint, that’s worse.
As I have written many times over the years, the Billy McCoy I have known has been a man of the highest integrity who won a reputation for honesty the hard way.
In the old days, the Rienzi Democrat wrote the book on avoiding the influence of lobbyists, steadfastly refused to be wined and dined and lived a monkish life while serving in the Legislature.
I still believe in McCoy’s personal integrity and I’ve seen zero evidence otherwise.
But the Ellis travel flap reveals a fundamental weakness in his administration as speaker – the fact that the leadership margin he commands is so thin (62 votes) and so fractious that it is difficult for McCoy to govern.
McCoy must wrangle with the Black Caucus, the so-called “country” Democrats and the Republicans – and as it has been demonstrated countless times over the last several months, the result is more often than not stalemate.
While McCoy’s leadership team can usually produce a simple majority, it cannot reliably produce a three-fifths or two-thirds majority vote when required. That was painfully evident during the recent special session.
The Ellis travel voucher is more than a “gotcha” scored on McCoy by the Republicans in the House. It is in microcosm an example of the political quagmire that has become the House.