/Analysis Gunn, through forceful maneuvering, shows Reeves and Hosemann who’s boss

Analysis Gunn, through forceful maneuvering, shows Reeves and Hosemann who’s boss

Reeves’s speech was being listened to by GOP officials, and they scouted out reporters to conduct live interviews. Speaker of the House Philip Gunn stood in silence at the back of the room, just a few hours away from his third consecutive term as speaker. The state’s political landscape was transformed that night. Reeves (the two-term lieutenant Governor who sparred with Gunn at Capitol) was now moving into the governor’s office. Delbert Hosemann was elected lieutenant- governor. Gunn must have seen that he was soon to be the most powerful politician of Mississippi, as he stood in the back. He did it during the recent power struggle between the legislative and executive branches of government. Reeves claimed for weeks that he was the only one with the spending power over $1.25 Billion in federal coronavirus relief funds that the state of Mississippi received from the federal government. Gunn and Hosemann disagreed, and called Jackson lawmakers back on May 1, to make sure that Reeves would not have this authority. Reeves, in response, threatened to veto the almost unanimously approved bill and sue the Legislature. Gunn gave in to these threats in the most public manner — it was the first time since 2012, when Republicans have taken complete control of the state government. Gunn blasted Reeves at a press conference on May 1. Gunn, a Ridgeland lawyer, could as well have been giving the closing argument in courtroom. He took Reeves’ claims into consideration and cited previous court rulings and statements made years earlier by Reeves to show why they were wrong. Gunn made the moment a lesson in constitutional law and used Reeves’ favorite campaign line about government overreach to his disadvantage. Gunn stated at the May 1 press conference that the governor believes that he can spend more money and get it there faster by letting him do so. “That’s a great sound bite, but what voice does it give to our citizens in decision making ?…?” Reeves continued to insist that the Legislature was violating state Constitution. He claimed that legislators “were trying steal the money” and that “people would die” due to legislative intervention in the spending process. Gunn, the famously clever political navigator, tightened his belt. Gunn wrote a seven-page blistering letter to Reeves on May 4. It explained why the governor was wrong about 12 claims he had made publicly. Sources close to the speaker said that Gunn wrote every word of his letter and pointedly challenged the motivations of the governor. Gunn wrote Reeves Friday in a May 4 letter. The letter was quickly circulated by Mississippi Today lawmakers and read: “In your comments Friday you portrayed legislators as thieves, killers.” “You claimed that we’stole money’ and people would die. These cheap theatrics, false personal insults, and cheap humor were not appropriate for your office.” Gunn continued his letter by saying: “We ask that you cease sensationalizing this situation and work together with the Legislature in solving the problems before us. This is how our government has operated since 1817, and it should continue today. Reeves stopped critiquing the Legislature after he had received the letter. Reeves knew he was in trouble and invited Hosemann and Gunn to the Governor’s Mansion for a truce. This would have allowed Reeves avoid embarrassment from a historic and almost certain veto override during his first 120 days of office, as well as an intra-party legal fight. Gunn was not done asserting his power. Gunn and Hosemann attended Reeves’ daily news briefing on May 7 to announce their agreement. Reeves opened the presser by speaking about “ongoing discussions” about how the three would collaborate in the coming days. Reeves refused to admit that he lost the fight and would no longer have the spending authority. Next, Hosemann softly acknowledged that Reeves would be brought to the table by legislative leadership to discuss how to spend federal funds. Hosemann was vague about the terms of the agreement they had reached and who would be granted the spending authority. Gunn was last to speak and, as he did in days past, made no secret of how this chapter in Mississippi’s political history would end. Reeves would not have spending authority and the legislative leadership had achieved exactly what they desired all along. Gunn stated, “The conclusion we have reached is that the Legislature willappropriate those dollars while working with the governor to administer those dollars.” Without Hosemann, Gunn wouldn’t have won the battle. He deserves credit. They worked closely together to devise ways to block the governor using legislation and how they could win a lawsuit or override a state veto. The lieutenant governor did not criticize the governor’s position, but he left many questions about the decisions made. Hosemann was also unable to secure unanimous support for legislative leaders’ maneuvering due to the closeness of several Republican senators. Mississippi Today reporter Bobby Harrison stopped Gunn at the corridor after the May 7 press conference. “Mr. Harrison smiled and said, “Mr. With a smile, Harrison said to his staff: “Speaker, that letter.” Gunn replied straight away, saying, “I didn’t intend for that letter to be made public.”