Kevin McCabe: When bill amendments are weaponized against fellow conservative legislators, Republicans lose

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REP. KEVIN MCCABE

Transparency in government is one of the most important values a legislator can have. Educating constituents and Alaskans on “how the sausage is made” would seem to be very important to that transparency. 

During the initial budget debates on HB281, there were several procedural motions and votes taken that are a great lesson in sausage making. I have included relevant excerpts from the House Journal to show you how easy it is to misconstrue or manipulate the facts (I was guilty of this myself before I entered the legislature). Remember this was the very beginning of the budgetary process; the first of five debates on the budget.

At one point, during the initial House budget debate, Rep. Sarah Vance penned and submitted an amendment (Amendment 46) saying that it was the intent of the legislature that no money appropriated to the University would be used to prevent college students from carrying a gun on campus. I agree with her amendment, as would any conservative Pro-Second Amendment legislator.

But this amendment was intent language only, not suitable for a budget bill, and thus Rep. Vance decided not to offer her amendment. 

Here is what the legislative drafting manual says about intent language: “If intent language relating to an appropriation is to be included in an appropriation bill, the drafter must first confirm that the language does not contain a substantive provision and does not violate the confinement requirement. If the intent language applies to only one section of the bill, it may be included as a subsection within that section.”

There are also opinions from the Department of Law that say: “If the legislature intends that something be illegal, legislators have to actually pass a bill making it illegal. Intent language is a technical way to clarify an appropriation. A bill that creates or modified statute is the only way for the legislature to make something legally enforceable or prohibited.”

Finally, there is a bit of a wrinkle in the way Rep. Vance’s amendment was handled, and it should be highlighted for all to understand as those who would try to sell a narrative will not describe it. Sometimes things are not as cut-and-dried during debate that we would all wish: In the House journal it very clearly states “amendment 46 was not offered.” It should have been dead. The Speaker of the House, however, decided on her own to roll it to the bottom of the list, which was not Rep. Vance’s intent; so it was not tabled, and was not intended to be offered again. Here is Vance’s amendment:

“It is the intent of the legislature that state funds appropriated to the University of Alaska not be used to enforce a regulation or policy of the statewide university system that denies or infringes on the individual right to keep and bear arms under art. I, sec. 19, Constitution of the State of Alaska.”

Here is the journal entry reflecting what happened:

“Amendment No. 46 was not offered. The speaker stated that, without objection, Amendment No. 46 would be moved to the bottom of the amendments.”

One of us should have objected. We totally missed the speaker’s faux-pas.

The next day, Rep. Chris Kurka, who had, at some time, placed his name on Amendment 46 as a co-sponsor, offered the amendment again. Another legislator moved to table it as it is somewhat unusual and “in your face” politically for a co-sponsor to offer an amendment that the sponsor does not want offered. 

The vote to table was taken and even the original sponsor, who did not want it offered, voted to table. Here is that journal entry:

There were many amendments offered, tabled, or not offered, and a few that passed. Many of the “intent language” only amendments that were offered by Rep. David Eastman and others did not meet the policies and procedures in the Legislative Drafting Manual. And many of those by Rep. Eastman had not been discussed with his team; thus, motions were made to table most of the intent language amendments. 

Let me explain a bit: Offering surprise amendments, without prior team discussion, is a Foundation for Applied Conservative Leadership (FACL)  tactic used to try to get others “on the record” prior to an election so their votes can be used against them during the campaign season. This is generally not used against your own party.

When it is used, however, and the team does not have the time to discuss or plan their votes or their strategy, tabling the amendment is a way to gain that time. Tabling is a normal Mason’s Rules procedure, not an attack on the amendment or the amendment maker. It is just a way to gain some time to understand the amendment, and the amendment can always be removed from the table later if there are enough votes. 

There is also discussion from the Foundation for Applied Conservative Leadership people on how a legislator publicly supports a bill or an idea. Many people have asked me why I did not “support” a bill (such as HB 152), by signing on as a co-sponsor or drafting the bill myself. Rep. Eastman said it very succinctly in a Wasilla town hall meeting a couple of weeks ago; he said that writing, sponsoring, co-sponsoring, and passing bills, was not his goal – nor should it be any legislator’s goal. That there are other ways to be an effective legislator. 

In fact, signing on as a co-sponsor to a bill could be dangerous, as it is possible for a bill to be amended into exactly the opposite of what you intended or what you thought you were co-sponsoring. Often waiting to see how the wind blows in committee, with a bill, is the better move. 

And there are myriad ways to help support a bill. Signing on as a co-sponsor is just one of them. Another way to provide support for a bill is to use the uniform rules to move a bill out of committee. Here is the journal entry from one floor session where I did try to help a bill along with a motion to move it from committee.

My effort failed because the two original sponsors had not done any of the work needed to even hear it in committee; thus, it was not ready to discharge it from the Community and Regional Affairs Committee and I had to pull my motion. 

One would have to listen to the session to hear what Rep. Sara Hannan (chair of the committee bill was stuck in) said in her objection. This is one reason why it is so important to actually do the work needed to refine a bill, in committee, to have it ready for the committee to act on.


Some of the above are tactics and rules processes that can be used in many different situations to block bills or amendments; or even subtly attack a legislator. The late Senator H.L. Richardson wrote a book called Confrontational Politics, which identified confrontational strategies used on conservatives by the left.

These tactics were never intended for conservatives use against each other. Nevertheless, I am sure you will see these being used in the coming campaign season by some who focus on process instead of results. Gun Owners of Alaska, a Facebook page, is one of those. 

Mark Twain said it is easier to lie to people than to convince them they have been lied to. Perhaps, armed with this little bit of knowledge, you can begin to separate the truth from the intellectual dishonesty that is out there on some platforms.

Rep. Kevin McCabe has represented District 8 [District 30, new number] as a member of the Alaska House of Representatives since 2021.

Kevin McCabe: What do we really know about the Oath Keepers?





Thank You

25 COMMENTS

  1. Wow, trying to defend himself voting against conservative budget amendments he just exposed himself more. Read that language on 46. It is being specific on how money can be spent, just like the language we’ve had in the past prohibiting funding abortions. It is a legitimate budget amendment, and he voted against it Actions speak louder than words.

  2. He always does that! Then when scared and worried, he goes into explanations and sweat. McCabe needs to quit. He’s more of a problem than a thinker of solutions. Waffle, waffle, waffle!

  3. It appears that there are only about 5 or 6 actual Republicans in either house of the legislature, combined.

  4. BS !! Legislators must perform their ‘ due diligence ‘ in preparing a bill by ascertaining wether or not it’s appropriate to a particular need AND it’s likelihood of approval before throwing it out there ‘ wily nilly’ in some unlikely hope for its passage. Failure to do so hurts the conservative cause in various ways but ESPECIALLY hurts those fellow conservative lawmakers WHO UNDERSTAND IN ADVANCE THE BILL HAS ZERO CHANCE OF PASSAGE AT LEAST AT THIS TIME AND IN THIS MANNER OF PRESENTATION. They may in their wisdom, vote to table it or vote against it. THIS IS SIMPLY BEING A PROFESSIONAL PERSON AND UNDERSTANDING THE LEGISLATIVE PROCESS AND THE ART OF POLITICS !!

  5. “Often waiting to see how the wind blows in committee, with a bill, is the better move.”

    Wondering why you limit this advice to committees since you employ the same tactic during elections?

  6. “(FACL) tactic used to try to get others “on the record” prior to an election so their votes can be used against them during the campaign season. This is generally not used against your own party.”
    —-umm, actually the problem we have is the the Republican party routinely covers for the true beliefs of our representatives by either tabling amendments so they don’t have to vote on them or selecting those representatives who are either safe or not running for elections to vote against their base and letting other who would vote against their base on that issue to actually vote with their base knowing their vote won’t effect the outcome. For example, half if the energy check ($650) required a 3/4 majority. They knew in committee who was voting against it before the ink was dry. This gave 3/4 of the representatives the opportunity to vote for the extra money while 1/4 voted against it to kill it. Truth is, many of those that voted for the extra $650 would have voted against it.
    Right now, Dunleavy is pushing for an amendment to the constitution to “settle the life issue” it takes 2/3 majority to pass and he knows it will not pass. But it allows for 2/3 of the reps and senators to pretend to be prolife. Just like it allows Dunleavy to pretend to be prolife rather than just passing a simple law which requires a simple majority.

  7. Normal Republicans are for less regulation and government. That would include silly amendments for non-existent problems

  8. The only thing worse than Democrats are Republicans. Both want to rule, not govern.

    At least the Democrats are honest about it.

    • Masked, however the EVIL Democrats are really good at enacting their agenda and it’s inherent tyranny vs the STUPID Republicans who run on a platform that says, “Government don’t work”, a point which they prove every time they get elected.
      Summary- vote for the party least able to enact their legislative agenda, thereby preserving personal freedom and liberty, vote Republican!

  9. Representative McCabe, thanks for explaining the nuances on legislation. It is important to note that many of the “good” bills are prevented from passing by either the Senate President or House Speaker assigning a bill to too many committees, thus killing the bill. Additionally, bills are killed by assigning them to a committee in which the committee chair will knowingly kill the bill by either not hearing the bill or not discharging the bill out of committee. Many times, the killing of these bills is much more important than the passing of other bills. Most of the general public and the MSM pay little attention to this part of the legislative process.

    • Entirely too much stroke allocated to the leadership in both bodies. Committee chairs should not be able to styme the flow of legislation, The House Speaker, and the President of the Senate should be reduced to nothing more than facilitators of smooth movement of bills through the lawmaking process.

    • Good point, Dave! That’s what happened to the three proposed amendments that Dunleavy wanted to be voted on by the voters. One was effectively killed by Stedman because he felt that the legislature now had the prerogative to do as it wanted with the PFD instead of following any law already on the books. That’s what Walker’s veto of the PFD set up. Same with a proposed amendment that the people should vote on any new taxes. And there is one legislator who effectively kills any bills before her committee by just letting them sit. People who think the governor has a lot of power should think again. The only real power other than appointing people to help him/her run the state is the line-item veto. There are so many legislative tricks that the old pros use that seemingly make them look like principled people when they are just mere tricks to fool the people. And it works, judging by so many of the comments on this site. And they are not alone. Civics, as the way government is presented to the students is often boring and so much fluff. It is not until you get out of school and actually observe the process that you begin to perceive the reality. Unless you investigate how the system really works, you can be easily fooled. It’s like how I discovered how the system really worked during the 60’s and before when I discovered that the democrat party machines routinely met new immigrants at the docks with a job, a place to stay, and meals – all for the immigrant’s vote. And since the new arrival had no conception of what his vote meant, most agreed. It was and is good practice for the dems even today. How do you think those new illegals will vote? And isn’t it strange that most of them were let in to just disappear. And the dems want a voting system that doe not include any identification requirements or voting rolls cleanup. So a good portion of these illegals will vote democrat. Remember that the old quote “vote early, vote often” came right out of the Chicago Democratic machine. Nothing the dems do with the voting or loading up people beholden to them is an accident.

  10. “Another way to provide support for a bill is to use the uniform rules to move a bill out of committee. Here is the journal entry from one floor session where I did try to help a bill along with a motion to move it from committee.” – Kevin

    Are you trying to talk about when you couldn’t even read the script that you had prepared… When you created a drama show of moving the bill along trying to gain credit with your constituents… When Matt Claman had a prepared script on objecting to remove the bill from committee… When, during an at ease, you went over and told Sara Hannan what to object to and how to object to it….. When Sara Hannan was prepared with her script to object to the motion…. When you magically “didn’t know” that there was not a sponsor statement on the bills…. When you chose to withdraw your motion instead of calling for a vote…. AND when you chose to try on not one, but two bills that you “cared about”….

    Seems if you really cared about moving the legislation forward, you would have done your research and realized those things before hand and not made a fool of yourself on the house floor…

    Just a simple observation from someone who actually takes notice of legislators trying to hurt true conservatives and make themselves look better so they can win their next election…

    Care to watch the drama show, find it here: ‘https://www.ktoo.org/gavel/video/?clientID=2147483647&eventID=2022041244&startStreamAt=11613&stopStreamAt=11797

  11. “Kevin McCabe: When bill amendments are weaponized against fellow conservative legislators, Republicans lose“

    The title of this article is wrong. I think it should be “Chris Kurka and David Eastman: When articles in conservative media are weaponized against fellow conservative legislators, Republicans and all Conservatives lose”

    I’m seeing and hearing a lot of hypocrisy. According to the Kurka and Eastman camps, they tried to reach out to the Conservative Legislators claiming such things like this about them publicly, but their requests to talk it out privately were ignored. There’s a lot of assumptions of motives going on. I witnessed a certain popular US Senate candidate’s mother making such assumptions about Kurka’s motives at the Nikiski Republican convention. She jumped on him right out of the gate with guns blazing when he offered to take questions. He politely and patiently explained his reasons and motives and I was nearly moved to tears. Nobody dared to utter another word against him in that room after that. I was converted right then and there. I’ve seen and heard Kurka’s heart and understand his desire to save unborn babies. Sometimes, Representative McCabe, the intention, the motive, the good deed, and attempting to give voice to the voiceless, is more important than following proper procedures and rules. This is why Senator Laura Reinbold won the hearts of Alaskans because she got it that freedom still matters to some of us. Someone named Peter only cared about power and rules. This is why he really dropped out. He saw the people weren’t behind him anymore. Alaskans saw him as a Pharisee wanting to crucify the one trying to liberate Alaskans and herself from the mask mandates, all because of rules and those who have authority to make and exercise them. You, like Micciche, are in danger of losing the people’s hearts and support, and you’re sounding desperate in your smear and bully campaign. We don’t need schooling on politics – you do.

  12. The Reality is that McCabe only grandstands on conservative causes, he doesn’t stand for them.

    ‘https://alaskarighttolife.org/kevin-mccabe-weaponized-pro-life-bills-and-babies-lose-their-lives/

    • It’s humorous that one who advocates for a black kettle would call the kettle black! Grandstanding is the trademark of those in office who are FACL-trained. Review the tapes of floor sessions and add up all the minutes used by one individual EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. floor sessions are held and you will quickly see who is grandstanding—and not accomplishing anything. No bills introduced by this legislator on these conservative issues have been passed, and many never made it out of committee. For someone who claims that writing bills and amendments should not be the goal of a legislator—this legislator has written over 500 bills, amendments, and revisions this session alone, thus preventing other legislators from having access to the legal department. Each bill and amendment produces an opportunity to speak (grandstand.) Effectiveness cannot be gauged by the number of bills and amendments which have been introduced, or by the content, length, and frequency of speeches. Effectiveness requires working with others to accomplish shared goals—not through grandstanding.

  13. When are we going to stop pretending people who claim to be conservative are actually conservative?

    Eastman and Kurka do not have a conservative voting record, sure they sometimes vote along with conservatives, but more often than not the results of their votes hurts the conservative cause while supporting the big government leftists cause. The latest budget vote was a demonstration in this, Eastman and Kurka voted against concurrence while claiming their no votes were for the conservative cause. After the PFD was cut and government spending was expanded, they both voted for the budget…abandoning their supposed conservative causes while growing government and taking money out of the pockets of every Alaskan. Conservatives do not act or vote the way Eastman and Kurka do.

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