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Gov. Roy Cooper recently vetoed a bill that would place new penalties on any medical professional who willingly allows infants to die if they survived an abortion.
Cooper and most Democrats said the legislation brings needless government rules into complicated medical situations.
Republicans, though, say the rules are necessary. And on April 30, the state Senate voted to override Cooper’s veto.
Afterward, legislator Dan Bishop, who’s running for Congress in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District, took credit for advancing the override.
First, Bishop’s claim that he voted to "end infanticide" in North Carolina is misleading because current federal laws already protect newborns born alive through the course of an abortion, as PolitiFact reported last month.
Since we’ve already written about that, let’s look instead at Bishop’s claim that he was the "deciding vote." We believe this statement warranted attention because it suggests Bishop was a swing vote and that the bill’s fate depended on Bishop and Bishop alone.
This is a type of claim that PolitiFact has been reviewing for years. It’s common for politicians to try to take sole credit for a law’s success or, conversely, for their opponents to try to assign someone sole blame.
But often those claims are exaggerated, and that’s the case with Bishop too. Thirty votes were needed for the override and Bishop provided one of the predicted Republican votes. But the GOP-authored bill wouldn’t have advanced without the help of a Democrat.
1 OF 30 NEEDED VOTES
To override a veto, the state House and state Senate each need three-fifths of their present members to support the idea. On April 30, the Senate’s override vote was 30 in favor and 20 opposed — meaning the effort advanced by one vote.
While Bishop’s vote mathematically was important, it’s misleading for him to say he cast the "deciding" vote.
Gerry Cohen, former special counsel to the N.C. General Assembly and longtime legislative staffer, described Bishop’s claim as a "non sequitur."
"I suppose with an oral roll call vote you could definitively say who the 30th yes vote was," Cohen said. "Otherwise it’s puffery (though) not incorrect from a technical sense."
In North Carolina, key votes are typically conducted electronically at the same time. It’s not like an elementary school classroom where a teacher calls out each student’s name, one by one. So there’s rarely the kind of drama that the late U.S. Sen. John McCain generated in 2018, when he walked to the center of the Senate floor and made a thumbs-down motion to vote against a "skinny repeal" of the Affordable Care Act.
HOW IT WORKS
North Carolina’s voting procedure is more like a silent auction, or the final round of the television show "Jeopardy!" The chamber is silent, and senators are given time to press a button. Votes are anonymous until the results are displayed on a screen. And the screen doesn’t show results until each vote is cast.
The system is structured in a way that it rarely places pressure on any one legislator. However, lawmakers sometimes bring the spotlight upon themselves by voting out-of-lockstep with their party, by trying to change their vote, or both.
In 2012, for instance, fracking was legalized in North Carolina after a Democrat from Charlotte accidentally pushed the wrong button and voted with Republicans. Rep. Becky Carney made the mistake late at night.
Just after the vote, her voice could be heard on her microphone, saying "Oh my gosh. I pushed green," WRAL reported. She asked Thom Tillis, who’s now a U.S. Senator but at the time was NC House Speaker, if she could change her vote. Changing votes is sometimes allowed, but Tillis said no.
In the vote Bishop referenced, Sen. Don Davis of Pitt County received the most attention. He was the only Democrat who voted with Republicans to support the override, giving the GOP the one vote it needed to advance the override effort.
As of May 8, Cooper’s veto still stands because the House hasn’t taken an override vote.
Bishop said he "cast the deciding vote" to override a vetoed "born-alive" bill. His vote was important because, without it, the override effort would fail. But it would have also failed without any of the other 29 votes. So it’s misleading for Bishop to say he cast the "deciding" vote. We rate this claim Mostly False.
This story was produced by the North Carolina Fact-Checking Project, a partnership of McClatchy Carolinas, the Duke University Reporters’ Lab and PolitiFact. The NC Local News Lab Fund and the International Center for Journalists provide support for the project, which shares fact checks with newsrooms statewide. To suggest ideas for fact checks, email [email protected].
Posts on the Facebook page and website for NC Sen. Dan Bishop, a Republican who’s running for Congress in North Carolina’s 9th District.
North Carolina Senate roll call vote transcript for Senate Bill 359 veto override on ncleg.gov.
News & Observer, "NC Democrat sides with Republicans trying to override Cooper veto of abortion bill," published April 30, 2019; "Cooper vetoes NC ‘abortion survivors’ bill," published April 18, 2019.
Washington Post video, "Sen. John McCain's 'thumbs down' vote against repealing Obamacare: An oral history," published on YouTube on July 28, 2018.
WRAL, "Carney: 'I feel rotten' about accidental fracking vote," published July 3, 2012.
The Atlantic, "North Carolina Lawmaker Presses Wrong Button, Accidentally Legalizes Fracking," published July 3, 2012.
Indyweek, "Tillis ignores Carney's pleas to correct her vote on fracking bill," published July 4, 2012.
PolitiFact, "Fact check: Are abortion survivors covered by existing laws?" published April 15, 2019; "Did Heidi Heitkamp cast 'deciding' vote on rule for energy industry?" published May 10, 2018; "What makes a vote 'the deciding vote'?" published Oct. 26, 2010; "Ron Johnson says Sen. Russ Feingold cut Medicare by $523 billion," published Oct. 8, 2010.
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