House Republicans held a behind-closed-doors caucus meeting to discuss their strategy on the budget and other issues Friday, but did not know all their remarks were being broadcast live into the press room through an open microphone.
House leaders warned members against asking about a redistricting provision in the $19.7 billion budget they plan to approve this afternoon.
If any questions come up, said Majority Leader Paul Stam, Rep. David Lewis should answer them.
"On one point, I only want David Lewis to talk," Stam said, an Apex Republican. "The talk about redistricting and this thing in the budget is extremely sensitive to the other people not in this room who are voting with us. No one but David talk. David can obfuscate more than anybody I know."
The "other people not in this room" is an apparent reference to the five Democrats voting with Republicans on the budget.
House Speaker Thom Tillis reminded members not to talk about "Democrats," but to counter individuals by name.
"This is not about Democrats, because we have Democrats voting for this budget," he said. "Please, do not go after the Democrats. If you want to go after an individual member for saying something stupid, gut punch them. These five Democrats are going after her (Gov. Bev Perdue). We'll go after the governor; when we have a veto override."
UPDATE: Perdue had some fun at the Republicans' expense at her afternoon media conference. Walking up to a bank of microphones, she pretended to fumble with them and quipped: "Are these things on? Is there a switch I need to ..."
After the press corps broke into laughter, she added: "I'm pretty competent with microphones."
The governor's dig was a reference to Stam's comment (included after the jump) that she is "incompetent."
Tillis told members that the House Rules Committee would take up a Senate bill that the N.C. Association of Educators is fighting. It would prevent members from having dues to the organization taken directly from their paychecks.
NCAE has sent mail to voters in the districts of five Democrats voting for the GOP-authored budget.
"The NCAE has gone into all five districts with mailers hammering these Democrats," Tillis said. "We just want to give them a little taste of what's about to come. It's going to be in Rules, and they're going to be mad."
The news of Perdue filling an executive order to restore unemployment benefits broke at about the time House Republicans were meeting.
Tillis suggested they respond by saying it's illegal or that she should fire her lawyers.
Stam went further.
"Either way, she's incompetent," the Apex Republican said. "We really need to crack on her for this. This is probably one of the worst things she's done."
Rep. Mark Hilton, a Catawba Republican, told members of his caucus that groups supporting a constitutional gay-marriage ban need a vote this year so they can organize their get-out-the-vote campaigns.
Hilton called the session "one of the most conservative, pro-family legislative sessions I've ever seen."
The marriage amendment "is important to conservative groups," he said. "They need to be able to get their ground-game working to get out the vote for it to be on the November ballot." House Speaker Thom Tillis "assured us it would happen this year," he said.
Other conservative items of interest: illegal immigration and "gun issues."