Simmering tensions between the state House and Senate boiled over onto the House floor Wednesday as House members testily debated a Senate request to take Thursday off so senators could take a four-day Easter holiday.
House members ultimately voted 51-32 to grant the senators’ request, but only after taking several digs at members of the other chamber.
“There’s work to do here. Why in the world would we agree to let them take a vacation?” asked state Rep. Richard Morrissette, D-Oklahoma City.
“The important issues are the ones that the House sends to the Senate that they ignore because they can’t face up to the tough issues,” chipped in state Rep. Mike Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City. “Why we’re giving them a pass, I don’t know.”
House members said they had too much work to join senators in taking Thursday off.
The House and Senate normally are in session Monday through Thursday and do not meet Fridays. Members of each chamber must ask permission from the other chamber when they want to take a break that goes beyond the normal three-day weekend.
Several House members criticized their Senate counterparts for taking a break while refusing to hear numerous bills that originated in the House.
“There’s a pro-life bill languishing in the Senate right now. It’s been there for years,” said state Rep. Mike Reynolds, R-Oklahoma City.
State Rep. David Dank, R-Oklahoma City, took a verbal jab, noting that Thursday is the day individuals who are developmentally disabled are scheduled to visit the Legislature.
“The Senate’s not going to be here to visit with them and talk to them about their needs, is that not right?” Dank asked.
State Rep. Dennis Johnson, R-Duncan, urged House members to “take the high road,” but took some digs of his own.
“Whether or not someone deserves something or not is not the issue here...,” he said. “During this week we are celebrating a time when each one of us who are Christians, perhaps, got something we did not deserve, either. I think we should be mindful of that fact.”
Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman said taking the Thursday before Easter off has been a Senate tradition for many years.
“Every bill that a senator wants to be heard on the floor — that will be honored,” Bingman said. “We’re down to, before today, 100 bills. We have a lot of time.”
Bingman said there are always a lot of Senate bills that House members choose not to hear, as well as House bills that the Senate chooses not to take up in committee.
That’s just the legislative process, he said.