The Rhode Island Progressive Democrats of America (RIPDA) congratulate Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello in his latest example of conservative gamesmanship, putting the House in recess immediately after hearing that his Senate colleagues might actually put their two cents into the budget. Mattiello’s childish, thuggish action mimics Trump and is an embarrassment to Democrats and the state of Rhode Island.
This wildly unpopular, unprecedented, and unjustified executive order beckons the question; does Mattiello even believe in democracy? This latest failure of our government to govern–a direct consequence of Mattiello’s childish “I want it all” attitude–is actually a tremendous loss for everyone.” It is an outrage that the Speaker is playing games when there is a state to be run. The Senate and the House budgets agree on most everything, including fuzzy math, cruel and pointless Medicaid cuts, DMV closings, and other unpopular measures. The only true point of contention is the Senate’s acknowledgement that there is no real provision to pay for Mattiello’s venerated cuts to the car tax in future years.
It is not a shock to us that the Speaker in engaging in a game of he said/he said, issuing dueling statements and bickering about whether or not a handshake took place or whether it constitutes a sacred agreement. (We are pretty sure that the state Constitution does not mention handshakes between elites when describing the process by which a bill becomes law.) We know Mattiello and we know that he will always put his own oversized ego ahead of the needs of the people. Unsurprisingly, he also put his own needs ahead of even those legislators who voted for and supported him the entire session. The real tragedy here is the stagnation of progressive legislation in this fiasco.
At the start of this year’s session, state representatives—intimidated by the threat that Mattiello would block their legislation as punishment—voted for Mattiello for Speaker in the hopes that he would allow them to pass one or two bills each. Mattiello’s hypocrisy is laughable. How can Mattiello argue that going back on a private, unconfirmed handshake warrants a complete shutdown of half the statehouse, when Mattiello himself is going back on promises to pass other representatives’ bills, which hinged on the public, unanimous vote for Speaker? Most of the bills introduced by progressives are in limbo along with the budget, and there is nothing they can do to advance them.
We continue to hope that the legislature will see that the only outcome of supporting men like Mattiello is disappointment and we wish them the courage to vote Nick out of his position as Speaker and replace him with a leader who is actually interested in doing the people’s business. We call upon the House to choose a new Speaker when they meet later this summer to finish their work, so that the budget negotiations can be handled by someone whose priority is to do that work, rather than to play power games.
After decades of crookedness, unscrupulous double-dealing, and outright depravity in state government, the citizens of Rhode Island expect so little that this current failure to govern seems almost like a hiccup rather than as the easily preventable disaster that it truly is. As always, we wish for so much more for ourselves and our state, and we hope that our fellow citizens will join us in demanding that the Speaker of the House pay a price for his inability to put the interests of the people of RI ahead of his own ego.