MONTGOMERY — Alabama state House Majority Leader Micky Hammon, R-Decatur, barely passed a confidence vote by House Republicans on Wednesday, one of Hammon’s opponents claims.
The vote is the latest sign of divisions in the majority party that have become public since Gov. Robert Bentley first faced an impeachment investigation last year.
“What we have now is a completely divided caucus,” said Rep. Ed Henry, R-Hartselle, who opposes Hammon’s leadership role.
Henry said Thursday that the 72 members of the House GOP caucus met this week to vote on its leadership, with Hammon winning in a 36-35 vote decided by an absentee ballot.
Proceedings in the caucus are closed to the public and are usually kept secret by members of the caucus. Henry said a growing number of GOP lawmakers are upset with “corruption and cronyism that seems to be rampant” in the Legislature.
Henry has been a leader in the movement to impeach the governor. Bentley was accused last year by a former cabinet member of having an affair with a married aide, Rebekah Mason. Mason and Bentley have denied having a physical affair, but the accusation refocused attention on the role of Mason, who worked in the governor’s office but was paid with campaign funds and by a nonprofit that does not reveal its donors.
Henry's opening comments re: the leadership vote. pic.twitter.com/lbWk7xad1n— Tim Lockette (@TLockette_Star) February 16, 2017
Attorney General Steve Marshall, in a press release Wednesday, confirmed that state prosecutors are conducting an investigation into Bentley. A House panel conducting an impeachment probe into Bentley has been on hold for months, in deference to the attorney general’s investigation, which started last year. House Judiciary Committee chairman Mike Jones, R-Andalusia, has said he expects the House investigation to be done by the end of the session in May.
Henry said some members of the House want a vote “within a few weeks.”
Hammon, reached by reporters on his way out of the House chamber, said he had no comment yet, but would send a statement later. His staff later sent a prepared statement to the press.
“The House Republican Caucus which is not a government body, has a long-standing rule of not discussing its business in public,” Hammon was quoted as saying in the statement. “I will say that even after Rep. Henry raised his concerns within the caucus, I remain majority leader with the support of my Republican colleagues.”
House Speaker Mac McCutcheon, R-Monrovia, declined to comment on the proceedings in the caucus meeting.
“I raised my hand and made an agreement that we would not talk about caucus business, and I’m not going to do it,” he said. All members of the caucus make that pledge, he said.
“I hate that he made that statement,” he said of Henry’s remarks.
Henry claimed 35 members of the GOP caucus were willing to form a “true conservative” caucus within the caucus, but his head count – and his vote count from the caucus meeting – were difficult to verify. Even Henry’s seeming allies on the impeachment issue wouldn’t discuss the caucus meeting with reporters.
“I’m not going to comment on that,” Rep. Corey Harbison, R-Cullman, said when asked how he voted in the caucus meeting. Harbison circulated a petition in the House this week to restart the Bentley impeachment investigation.
The House adjourned Thursday and will reconvene Tuesday.