I will try to get back to writing an occasional Compass on issues of interest and substance as we get farther into 2014. So, here’s the first one…
This week we saw the Democrats reach 20-20 in the Virginia State Senate and they promptly conducted a takeover of the committees, threw some members off of committees, and rewrote the rules in a particularly egregious manner.
Here’s the bottom line: The Dems blatantly broke the senate rules to “rewrite” those rules to allegedly “allow” much of what they did in the Senate on Tuesday.
What does this mean for the future? It means that anywhere you find anything in the Rules of the Senate that supposedly requires a super-majority vote (e.g., 2/3 vote to amend the rules or remove a member from a committee), you don’t actually need a super-majority vote. All you need is 20+1 (either a 21st Senator or the LG) who are willing to re-write the rules.
The rule of law died in the Senate on Tuesday. Don’t believe Don McEachin’s and Dick Saslaw’s lies about this situation. This is totally unprecedented and it is NOT equivalent to the Rules voted for by the Republican Senators plus then-LG Bill Bolling after the 2011 election.
One question I have is will the GOP have the backbone after the 2015 elections (if they get to 21) to use the same kind of rules in running the Senate, or to at least restore the rules that were thrown out AND remove some senior Dems from major committees? Hopefully we’ll see in two years.
Okay, to the nuts and bolts. Rule 49 of the Senate said that the rules were good for four years (until after the next full Senate election in 2015) and required a 2/3 vote of the members to amend.
This is the rule that was blatantly violated by the Dems.
Perhaps the most pathetic thing is that they didn’t need to violate the rules to reach majorities on all of the committees. They could have simply used the opportunity of the arrival of new Senators to add enough Dems to all the committees (without removing any Republicans, which also requires a 2/3 vote under Rule 20) that they would be the majority on the committees.
But that wasn’t enough for them. One of the rewrites of the rules also allows Senator John Edwards – a tool of his leadership – as Chairman of the Rules Committee to grab any Senate bill that gets amended at all in the House to be sent to the Rules Committee for new and separate consideration. Note that the Rules Committee is stacked 13 Dems to 4 Republicans, so the Dem leadership can effectively kill ANY Senate bill that gets out of the Senate if so much as a comma gets moved over in the House.
This is intended to reduce the power of the House of Delegates and the relevance of those Senate Dems who are not outrageously liberal and may, on occasion, cooperate with a Republican on a bill. This is not just a consolidation of Democrat power, this is particularly a consolidation of Liberal Democrat power. This is an unprecedented legislative club for the most extreme liberals to beat all the other Senators with and the members of the House of Delegates.
In my humble opinion, Republicans have more opportunities for pickups in the 2015 elections than the Dems do, so it will be interesting to see how this plays out come the 2016 session!
Finally, you might ask, ‘why don’t the Republicans just sue?’ The simple answer is because they would probably lose. Courts leave wrangling over legislative rules to the legislative bodies themselves. Article IV, Section 7 of the Virginia Constitution says that “Each house shall select its officers and settle its rules of procedure.” When you combine this with the separation of powers doctrine, you end up with a situation that a court is not likely to be willing to resolve.
However, if ever there were a case of a simple and brazen violation of a legislative body’s own rules, this is surely it! Nonetheless, the real opportunity to “fix” this is in the 2015 elections.
Posted By Valerie Garner
Categories: Politics, State Politics