The Senate is set to debate a bill next week allowing terminally ill patients to get a doctor’s prescription to end their lives.
The bill was moved to the full Senate with an unusual vote by the Judiciary Committee. After a lengthy discussion over Senate procedure, Judiciary Committee chairman Dick Sears called the question.
"So there’s a motion on the floor, and the motion is to reject the bill," Sears said.
Sears is a staunch opponent of the physician-assisted suicide bill, also known as death with dignity legislation.
And Sears had the votes in the committee to kill it.
But under an agreement reached in the Senate Democratic caucus before the session began, Sears promised to allow the full Senate to debate the measure.
But fulfilling that promise required some legislative gymnastics. That’s because a committee has to vote yes in order to move a bill to Senate.
So, with the guidance of Senate Secretary John Bloomer – the man who knows the rules – Caledonia Republican Joe Benning structured the question in a way to get to yes, even though he wanted to vote no.
"It’s no secret where I’m voting on the issue," Benning said. "But I really believe Vermonters deserve to have the entire Senate engaged in the debate and to have all of us state our claims, whatever they may be. So I will make that recommendation – that it be rejected."
The motion carried on a 3-1 vote, with one senator absent. The bill is now set for a Senate debate on Tuesday, with a final vote possible late next week.