Dem leader slams ‘desperate’ New Jersey Republicans for vaccine protest that delayed voting
Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin (Daniella Heminghaus for New Jersey Monitor)

New Jersey Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin criticized his Republican colleagues for their “desperate efforts to delay important legislation” after a Monday voting session that lasted for about 11 hours.

Several GOP lawmakers stretched the last voting day of 2021 into a marathon over their objections to a policy that requires them to show proof of vaccination or a clean COVID test to enter the Statehouse. Coughlin (D-Middlesex) in a statement called the policy “fair and sensible,” and noted COVID cases are rising in New Jersey and the region.

The lengthy day came in part because remote voting takes longer than in-person voting, and about 20 lawmakers — Democrats and Republicans — voted remotely. But a handful of Republican Assembly members also stalled voting on many bills by making long-winded comments, asking seemingly pointless questions, complaining they couldn’t hear, or saying they had technological difficulties during their calls into the session.

Throughout the day, Coughlin became weary of the Republican lawmakers’ tactics. Their attempts to filibuster the proceedings included talking about different types of corn, recalling beach days, discussing their children’s opinion on school security drills, and reading directly from the text of bills.

“You guys are running out of things to say,” Coughlin said at one point.

As Coughlin sought to speed up the voting process, he began to quickly open and close the option for lawmakers to comment on bills. When Republicans shouted at Coughlin that they weren’t being given the chance to speak, Coughlin told them they should have asked sooner.

Throughout the 11-hour session, technical difficulties existed on both ends. The clerk couldn’t hear votes being cast, lawmakers were speaking over each other, and some apparently couldn’t figure out how to put themselves on mute.

As the night dragged on, more and more lawmakers left the building and joined the session over the phone, adding to the delays. The session, which began at about 1:20 p.m., ended just after midnight.

Assembly sessions typically don’t last longer than a few hours, depending on how many bills are scheduled. Lawmakers ultimately acted on more than 100 bills Monday.

In the state Senate, which started its session nearly two hours late, voting concluded by 5 p.m. Republican senators all showed their vaccine cards or negative test results without issue, though during the session some said legislative leaders should consider natural immunity.

Coughlin applauded Assembly members who showed up to vote and complied with Statehouse vaccine rules “with respect for their colleagues, staff, and the public.” When a group of Republicans entered the building without complying with the vaccine policy during the last voting session, Coughlin criticized them for putting the health of their colleagues and their families at risk.

Confirmed COVID cases in New Jersey have topped 1.1 million since the pandemic started, with 28,730 COVID-associated deaths, according to state data.

“Despite the desperate efforts of several members of the minority party to delay important legislation, we succeeded in passing major mental health legislation for our students, took steps on gun safety, honored our service members and veterans, furthered our support for economic development in Atlantic City, and kept commitments to safeguard our natural resources,” Coughlin said.

New Jersey Monitor is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. New Jersey Monitor maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Terrence McDonald for questions: Follow New Jersey Monitor on Facebook and Twitter.