The following editorial first appeared in The Seattle Times.
Despite strong evidence Rep. Matt Shea should be expelled for acts of domestic terrorism, the Washington legislative session opened Monday with the House in conflict about his fate.
Shea is relegated to political isolation but remains a voting lawmaker. FBI investigators must expedite their investigation of the evidence presented in a Legislature-commissioned report to resolve the impasse.
Speaker of the House Laurie Jinkins has called for expulsion. Her Democratic caucus doesn’t have the 66-vote supermajority to remove the Spokane Valley lawmaker. Republican leader J.T. Wilcox suspended Shea from the caucus, removed him from House committees, including his leadership position, and moved his office. Wilcox has called for Shea to resign but, disappointingly, stops short of moving to expel him.
“It’s up to the voters to decide who’s going to be in the chamber,” Wilcox said Thursday.
Full House sessions present a challenge. Representatives sit by party in dual-seat desks with a center aisle between. Wilcox doesn’t want Shea among Republicans. Jinkins told Crosscut she sees no place for him across the aisle.
The chamber has no easy place to install a representative without a party. Center of the aisle would block movement. Tables at the front of the chamber are used by staff and press and lack voting buttons. Whether floor managers would even call on the man who communicates with militia allies as “Verum Bellator” in floor debates remains to be seen.
Wilcox should accept responsibility for his refusal to support expelling Shea and make the accused his own desk partner. That would deny a more deserving Republican proximity to power, but so does Shea’s continued membership in the people’s House.