HARRISBURG - Democrats who control the state House abruptly called off a planned debate this afternoon on long-awaited legislation to authorize table games at Pennsylvania slot parlors when it became apparent that they didn't have the votes to pass it.
Several Democratic members were absent "for personal, medical or family matters" when the House convened a session this morning, and without them the party was shy of the 102 votes needed to approve a bill, said Brett Marcy, a spokesman for House Majority Leader Todd Eachus (D., Luzerne).
Democrats hold a 104-99 seat edge in the lower chamber.
"We need every Democratic member here because it is abundantly clear from the Republican caucus that they are not interested in bipartisanship or compromise," said Marcy, who would not elaborate about the missing members.
The House is not expected to return to voting session again until Monday.
Enacting legislation allowing poker, blackjack, roulette and other table games is the final piece of the still-incomplete state budget that was partially adopted in October.
Without the $200 million in revenue expected this year from table games, House Democrats and Gov. Rendell have maintained that state is unable to distribute hundreds of millions in funding for state-related universities such as Penn State, Temple and Lincoln.
Republican members last night had pushed for the chamber to pass separate funding for those universities, but Democrats insisted that the table games measure come first.
The House reconvened this morning and was expected to begin debate on the long-stalled legislation. Democrats, however, quickly called yet another private caucus to update members of the party on the bill's status.
By noon, it was apparent that Democrats had pulled the plug on the day's session, and Republicans in the House held a news conference to blast the majority party.
Minority Leader Sam Smith accused Democratic leaders of holding university funding "hostage," while trying to ram through table games legislation in a take-it-or-leave it fashion.
Smith (R., Jefferson) said it has become clear over the course of the week that support for table games "is eroding as this thing continues to boil along."