Pressure builds on GOP to consider civil unions bill

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DENVER -- Pressure is mounting against House Republicans to allow legislation recognizing same-sex civil unions to advance at the Capitol before the legislative session ends Wednesday.

And if the bill doesn't clear two big hurdles on Tuesday, it's dead.

"Tuesday is the day you may see a mushroom cloud coming from this building," one lawmaker was overheard saying on Monday. "This could get ugly."

After House Republicans Monday cancelled a meeting of the House Appropriations Committee, which still must approve Senate Bill 2 before it can reach the House floor, the bill's sponsor cried foul and legions of supporters have been bombarding Speaker Frank McNulty with tweets, emails and voicemails all day urging him not to run out the clock on the measure.

With House Appropriations Chairman Jon Becker refusing to promise he'd hear the bill Tuesday, the Denver Post editorial board dropped a bombshell editorial Monday afternoon urging Gov. John Hickenlooper to call a special legislative session if the civil unions measure, which a majority of lawmakers support, stalls this week.

"There is simply no excuse for obstructionist behavior on such a high-profile bill of major importance," the Post writes.

While the prospect of a special session may or may not be a likely proposition, raising the possibility only adds to the pressure facing McNulty and offers more leverage to those calling for an up-or-down vote by the full House this week.

Gov. John Hickenlooper issued a response an hour later through his spokesman, Eric Brown.

"It’s premature to talk about a special session as a good bill is currently working its way through the legislative process," Brown said. "We have every expectation it will receive a vote from the full House of Representatives. It’s the right thing to do."

More immediately, Becker still has to schedule a meeting of the Appropriations Committee Tuesday and agree to hear the bill.

If that happens and the bill passes, as it's expected to do with Rep. Cheri Gerou, R-Evergreen, casting the swing vote, the measure would still need to be approved by the full House on an initial voice vote by Tuesday at midnight.

That's because bill's must pass second- and third-reading votes on separate days; so if the House doesn't do an initial vote by Tuesday night, there wouldn't be time to hold a final vote on Wednesday.

"Tomorrow could be a very interesting day if they don't do the right thing and actually let democracy work and let the members have a voice on the floor," the bill's sponsor, Rep. Mark Ferrandino, D-Denver, told FOX 31 Denver Monday.

McNulty, not showing too many of his cards, made no promises to move the legislation, once again blaming Senate Democrats for waiting so long before sending the bill to the House at session's end.

"They sat on the bill for 110 days and they expect it to rush through the process," McNulty said.