Rucho’s division

Is Sen. Bob Rucho a contemptuous rascal or a principled purist?

SenRuchoRALEIGH (May 23, 2015) – State Sen. Bob Rucho is not a uniter. He is not a warm-and-fuzzy type in the least, and he has never pretended he is. He has taken flak for likening Obamacare to National Socialism and communism, is a champion of efforts to lessen the City of Charlotte’s control over Charlotte-Douglas airport, and usually declines to mask his disdain for those who disagree with him or his methods.

The word unapologetic is such an oft-used and apt sobriquet for the retired dentist from Mecklenburg that it could well replace Senator before his name. Unapologetic Rucho may be, but another adjective also describes him: principled. He believes wholeheartedly in conservative and democratic principles, which is why the latest kerfuffle over his ruling that a renewable energy bill had passed his committee by a dubious voice vote is as much evidence of the Senate rules being ambiguous as it is evidence of Rucho’s exercise of power.

There was much Sturm und Drang from left-leaning quarters – one blog declares in a headline that Rucho “stabs democracy, leaves it bleeding on Senate floor [sic, actually a committee room].” But eventually both the News & Observer and the Charlotte Observer admitted that there is ambiguity in the chamber’s rules.

Senator Bob Rucho from Matthews

Sen. Bob Rucho (R-Matthews)

That ambiguity brings us back to Rucho. This is a man who expects a liberal to be a liberal and a conservative to be a conservative. This is a man who resigned his chairmanship of the finance committee last session over what he considered to be Republican caving to special interests who “favor loopholes over a fair tax system.” (Senate leader Phil Berger refused to accept his resignation.)

It is doubtful that a man who relies so much on principle would violate a clear rule. What is needed, then, is a rule clarification. Out of deference to Rucho, Senate leadership will probably not change anything until the beginning of next session, but it would be preferable to initiate a change sooner.

When the rules are clear there is accountability. When there is ambiguity, we can expect members to use that vagueness in their favor. And when Bob Rucho does it, we can certainly expect him to be unapologetic about it.