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Thompson, other W.Va. House Democrats hold post-election 'jam session'

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- House Speaker Rick Thompson, D-Wayne, met with other House Democratic leaders Sunday -- but participants said the post-election get-together was not out of the ordinary.

"It was basically a jam session about what happened in this election," House Health and Human Resources Chairman Don Perdue, D-Wayne, said of the meeting.

Perdue said Thompson usually has a meeting of the Rules Committee -- made up of committee chairpersons and the majority leader, among others -- during the November legislative interim meetings.

Those meetings are usually held the second week of each month, but because of Veterans Day and the Thanksgiving holiday, this month's interims are pushed back to Nov. 26-28.

"We usually meet during interims, but the speaker wanted to have it earlier because of all the questions about the election."

Preliminary election results saw Republicans gain 11 seats in the House, reducing Democrats to a slim 54-46 majority. That prompted comments and speculation that House Republicans might align with a conservative Democrat in an attempt to elect a new House speaker in January.

Mike Plante, a political consultant and adviser to Thompson, concurred that the speaker usually has a meeting with House leaders immediately after November elections to analyze the outcome, and to begin preliminary discussions about any changes in committee assignments or chairmanships.

"Obviously, the election makes life a little more difficult with the slimmer majority," Plante said.

He said of Thompson, "He feels very good about where he is right now. His style of leadership has ensured a lot of loyalty among the members."

Perdue agreed, noting, "He recognizes the problem going forward is not so much staying on as speaker, but fending off all the issues that may come up."

He said there are concerns that instead of addressing key issues such as balancing the budget, education and health-care reform, the nearly evenly divided House could spend the 2013 session fighting over contentious matters.

"I could see us fighting over insubstantial stuff, and wasting a lot of time, and I don't [think] anyone is going to want to see that happen."

If House Republicans vote as a unified bloc, they would need only 5 votes from Democrats to discharge bills from committee for immediate consideration on the House floor, potentially including divisive issues such as the death penalty or abortion.

Reach Phil Kabler at philk@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1220.


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