RALEIGH — The legal fight over whether Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s Cabinet choices can be confirmed resurfaced Wednesday as angry Senate Republicans blasted a Cabinet secretary who didn’t show up for their confirmation hearing for the second time this month.
A Senate committee abruptly ended its scheduled meeting to consider Military and Veterans Affairs Secretary Larry Hall’s qualifications. As happened at a similar meeting two weeks ago, Hall’s table remained empty as committee co-chairman Sen. Wesley Meredith gaveled in the meeting, read a statement and adjourned.
Meredith, R-Cumberland, said he would give Hall one more chance to appear today, and “if he does not, he should bear in mind there are consequences when state officials refuse to follow the law.”
Meredith didn’t provide details about those consequences, but suggested his absence reflects negatively upon his qualifications to serve. Sen. Ralph Hise, R-Mitchell, said after the meeting he would recommend Hall not be confirmed if his absences continue and subpoena him to appear.
Cooper and Republican legislative leaders disagree whether the order of a three-judge panel last week allows the Senate to move forward with the confirmation process before a trial next month on Cooper’s lawsuit challenging a confirmation law approved in December.
The judges refused to block the law for now, but Cooper’s office argues Republicans are violating the order by starting the confirmation process because he hasn’t yet formally submitted Hall’s name to the Senate. The judges cited a law referring to a May 15 deadline.
“It’s ironic to hear Senate Republicans talk about disrespecting the law while they openly violate a court order indicating that this process should not yet begin,” Cooper spokesman Ford Porter said in a release.
But Republicans say the judges’ order allows them to go ahead. Cooper has announced eight Cabinet secretaries They’ve all been sworn in and are performing their jobs.
“It is hard to conceive how anyone could argue with a straight face that he is not yet nominated,” Meredith said.
Sen. Floyd McKissick, D-Durham, called Wednesday’s meeting an “illegal, sham hearing” that should have never been held.