Best of Frenemies: Inside Mike Beebe and the GOP's Love-Hate Relationship (AP Analysis)

by Andrew DeMillo, The Associated Press  on Sunday, Mar. 3, 2013 2:08 pm  

The complicated nature of Gov. Mike Beebe's relationship with the GOP is steadily becoming apparent as Beebe and the rest of the state are adjusting to the first Republican legislative majority in 138 years. (Photo by Mike Pirnique)

LITTLE ROCK — The partnership Gov. Mike Beebe has boasted having with the Arkansas Legislature is turning more into a love-hate relationship under Republican control. They're not sworn enemies, but not exactly best friends either. They're more like frenemies.

The complicated nature of that relationship is steadily becoming apparent as Beebe and the rest of the state are adjusting to the first Republican legislative majority in 138 years.

Beebe's told lawmakers that they're in charge of the money and the policy, a statement Republicans have been all too happy to repeat as Beebe opposes an idea to cap state spending growth. He's called a proposal to ban most abortions in the state "patently unconstitutional," but the lawmaker behind that measure is also the Senate sponsor of Beebe's grocery tax cut.

He's praised the Republican lawmaker behind a 20-week abortion ban as a man of a character, while assailing the state's GOP lieutenant governor for offering to sign that bill while the governor was out of town.

The comments show just how carefully Beebe and Republicans are approaching each other after last year's election.

That balance for Beebe was on full display last week, as he talked with reporters about a 20-week abortion ban that he ended up vetoing later that day. While citing concerns about the measure, Beebe went out of his way to praise the lawmaker behind the ban for declining an offer by Republican Lt. Gov. Mark Darr to sign the bill while Beebe was in Washington.

"That showed a lot of character and class on his part," Beebe said. He echoed those remarks later in his letter vetoing the measure, a veto that the Republican-led House and Senate moved quickly to override.

He had much less love for Darr, saying he'd be more careful about leaving the state after the Republican lieutenant governor signed a bill concealing the state's list of concealed handgun permit holders. It's a measure that Beebe opposed, but planned to let it become law without his signature.

"You can't turn your back now," Beebe said.

The disagreements Beebe and Republicans have had since Republicans won control of the Legislature last year have been tame so far compared to the ones that GOP Gov. Mike Huckabee had during his 10½ years with a Democratic-led House and Senate. The House and Senate vote to override Beebe's veto on the 20-week ban was the first he's had since taking office. In Huckabee's first session, Democratic lawmakers overrode 10 of 16 vetoes.

Though Beebe has signaled he's likely to veto a 12-week abortion ban lawmakers sent him, he's avoided directly criticizing Republican Sen. Jason Rapert for backing the idea. Rapert, who's the chief Senate sponsor of Beebe's proposed grocery tax cut, has even offered Beebe an out on the contentious issue.

"The governor has his own conscience," Rapert, R-Conway, told reporters. "I think probably the best route would be that he just simply not sign the bill and let it become law, if that's what he decides to do."



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