In the last two weeks, Nicholas Mattiello and his allies have managed to pick fights with the state Senate, local progressives and Governor Gina Raimondo over the budget breakdown. The Speaker seems to be spending a lot of time attacking his own side recently.
But has Mattiello, as well as arguing with party colleagues, forcefully taken on Republicans such as the President since his inauguration? Press releases from the RI House of Representatives since the opening of the 2017 session list eight official statements from House members mentioning the President. Four of them are supportive – they come from Republican representatives (three from house minority leader Patricia Morgan and one from Robert Nardolillo). The critical statements come from Representatives Tobon (condemning President Trump’s attack on public health and climate change protections), Carson (when the House passed her bill asking DEM to report on potential effects of Trump’s cuts to environmental funding) and Regunberg, who has two (on the border wall and a joint release with Senator Jeanine Caulkin on a bill to reduce reliance on fossil fuels). Mattiello has issued around 20 press releases, including two each on the car tax and the budget, and one each on basketball and animal welfare awards.
So the Speaker has not issued a single official statement critical of the President since January nor is there much way of any criticism of Trump from Mattiello published in any form of media during the intervening months. To the contrary, Mattiello is on record as saying Rhode Island should be “supportive” of Trump according to an earlier RI Future report.
Compare that to Governor Gina Raimondo, who has issued several official statements about the President. For example in March “I will do everything in my power to oppose Trumpcare” (there are also more than a dozen comments attacking proposals to replace Medicaid in her twitter feed). In May she said: President Trump’s budget betrays Rhode Islanders” with his decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris accord.
Mattiello might argue that his job is to concentrate fully on managing the legislative process in Rhode Island. This isn’t an approach adopted by his counterpart in one of our neighboring states. In February the Boston Globe reported that Massachusetts House Speaker Robert DeLeo had decided confronting Trump was a top priority. He has set up a working group to look at the impact of Trump’s presidency on the citizens of his state. He told CBS “One of the major items I see on my agenda is to make sure that, no matter what happens in Washington, that Massachusetts residents are protected.”
You will also find plenty of direct quotes fro DeLeo regarding the President. On June 29 he said Trump’s comments about Mika Brzezinski were ‘ugly and undignified’. Back in January he called the first executive order on immigration “a cruel abuse of power”, wheras Mattiello’s response was “no comment” which looks like par for the course.
When it comes to taking on the Trump administration, silence has been the Speaker’s main theme over the last six months and this throws his recent bust-ups with Democrats into even starker relief.