Democratic State Sen. Steve Hobbs accused the GOP-led majority of the Senate of playing politics Monday when it made him co-chairman of the Financial Institutions, Housing and Insurance Committee.
“This is the first step of them caving in to the right wing of their caucus,” Hobbs told reporters after the Senate voted 26 to 23 to remove him as chairman of the panel and make him and GOP Sen. Jan Angel co-chairs.
Republicans took control of the Senate last year when Democratic Sens. Rodney Tom, of Medina, and Tim Sheldon, of Potlatch, crossed party lines to caucus with the GOP.
The coalition majority offered to let Democrats chair several Senate committees. Only two members, Hobbs, of Lake Stevens, and Sen. Brian Hatfield, D-Raymond, agreed to run panels dealing with financial institutions and agriculture, respectively. A third, Sen. Tracey Eide, D-Federal Way, co-chairs the transportation committee.
Hobbs speculated he was made co-chairman for several reasons, including his support for a measure – backed by Democrats and opposed by the GOP – that would require insurance companies to cover abortions. He also noted that both he and Angel are up for re-election this year.
Sen. Linda Evans Parlette, the Senate Republican caucus chairwoman, said the move was not political. The caucus just felt it should take advantage of Angel’s expertise, she said. Angel once ran several hair salons and also has experience in banking and real estate, as well as elective office.