Phil Mendelson’s Long Road to a Veto Override
Mayor Vince Gray's veto of the Large Retailer Accountability Act today means the next step of the saga over the Walmart bill belongs to Phil Mendelson. The chairman needs a two-thirds vote of the D.C. Council to override the mayor's veto, which he's put on the agenda for Tuesday's meeting.
Eight members have already voted for the bill, which means Mendelson only needs to find one more vote. But that's turning out to be more difficult than it sounds.
Among the people who aren't talking up Mendelson's chances: Mendelson himself. Mendelson wouldn't say this afternoon about whether he thought he could corral a ninth vote from one of the five councilmembers who voted against the bill in July: Tommy Wells, Muriel Bowser, David Catania, Mary Cheh, or Yvette Alexander.
"We'll see," Mendelson says.
Let LL spare the chairman the suspense. As it stands now, getting a ninth vote by Tuesday is looking close to impossible.
Cheh is still against the bill, according to her spokesman. Alexander, with two of the Walmart stores that were nearly killed by the bill in her ward, certainly isn't likely to switch. Just to be clear on her position, though, Alexander sent out a release today asking her colleagues not to vote for the override.
Mendelson could hope to peel off mayoral hopefuls Tommy Wells or Muriel Bowser, but neither is wavering on their opposition to the bill, according to aides. Besides, who wants a mayor who can be pushed around by a few mean posters?
Mendelson's best hope is probably At-Large Councilmember David Catania, who's been the closest in the past to providing the ninth vote. Before the vote in July passing the bill, Catania unsuccessfully offered to back an amended version in exchange for support of his weighted formula for funding schools.
Catania would likely need amendments that would apply the wage increase to stores that are covered by collective bargaining agreements, according to his chief of staff. In this stage of the process, though, the bill can't be amended.
Tuesday might not be Mendelson's last chance, though. The Council has 30 days to attempt to override the mayor's veto, meaning that if Mendelson expects Tuesday's vote to fail he could try to have the bill tabled and brought up for another vote at a more advantageous time.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery