Friday, January 25, 2013

Can VA's Senate GOP terrorists get away with perhaps the most corrupt power grab since the Confederate secession?


Virginia House of Delegates Speaker William J. Howell is the man on the spot now, as grown-up state Republicans try to figure out how to deal with the mess created by the party's terrorist faction in the Senate.

by Ken

I've been trying to write a piece like this most of the week -- a piece about the astonishing, flagrantly illegal and even more flagrantly indecent power grab by the 20 senators who make up the Republican half of the Virginia State Senate's 20-20 split.

That 20-20 Senate split, you'll recall, has put Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling in the position of tie-breaker, a role he filled for a while as a faithful party-zealot hack but has more recently declined to fill with the partisan "I'll vote for goddamn piece of crap" fidelity expected of him by the craziest of his fellow Virginia Republicans. (I wrote about this a couple of weeks ago in the post "VA GOP Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, contemplating an independent run for governor, finds an 'independent' voice.")

In fact, Lieutenant Governor Bolling is apparently now thought so unreliable by the criminally insane faction now running the show in the Senate that he was judged an obstacle who had to be worked around in the scheme uncorked on Monday, when the absence of one Democrat -- attending the presidential inauguration -- was seized on as an opportunity to ram through, as an amendment to a wholly unrelated bill, an entirely new Senate redistricting scheme designed to make the Virginia Senate permanently Republican without regard to actual representation of citizens. It was a plan that had received no public discussion whatsoever, and was introduced by a Republican senator who was clearly used as moderate window dressing, and admitted afterward that he felt kind of funny about what he and his pals did, but who nevertheless did the dirty work he was called on to do.

There's nothing fancy about the trick, which was worked by all the Republican-seized state legislatures in 2010: You squeeze as many of your goddamn Democrats as you can into one CD and carve up the others for "safe" Republicans.'s Aaron Blake wrote about this today ("Why winning back the House is a tough task for Democrats":
While the party’s Washington contingent is struggling mightily, the GOP retains full control of nearly half the state governments across the nation. And that control, combined with the just-completed round of redistricting, has set up Republicans to hold onto many of those state governments — and by extension, the U.S. House of Representatives — for potentially the next decade or more.
It does appear, though, that the Virginia 20 may have overreached. Their stunt has proved an embarrassment to many other state Republicans, starting (or maybe ending) with Gov. Bob McDonnell, who you'll recall is a champion of right-wing extremism with a moderate face, who keeps getting sandbagged by the nutso-terrorist factions of his party.

The climate likely to result if this scheme is adopted by the far crazier House of Delegates for signature by the governor will mean an end to any hopes Governor Bob had of actually governing in the final year of his term, and building up some kind of reputation to carry into, well, whatever his next electoral venture may be. The Virginia House has an overwhelming GOP majority, and the overwhelming majority of that overwhelming majority is just as crazy as the terrorist faction in the Senate, but clearly some pressure has been put on by some grown-ups known to the party. As of today, reports the Post's Laura Vozzella, "The House voted, without discussion, to postpone action on the measure until Tuesday."

Of course the governor could have gotten himself off the hot seat by announcing that he would veto the bill if it reaches his desk, but he's not that courageous. Remember, he's more concerned with appearances than reality. Here's Laura Vozzella again:
All eyes have been on House Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford) and Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R). The speaker and the governor are conflicted about how to get out of a mess that members of their party thrust them into, according to two Republicans and a Democratic senator familiar with their thinking but not authorized to speak publicly on the issue.

If McDonnell and Howell kill the map, they could enrage fellow Republicans — a group already wary of their plan to overhaul transportation, which would eliminate the gas tax but raise the sales tax and certain fees to pay for road and rail projects.

If they go with it, they risk alienating Democrats and losing their support on the transportation proposal
Even the milquetoasty WaPo editorial board more or less thundered against the preposterous scheme the other day. What I thought was interesting, though, was the first couple of comments that appeared after the editorial when I looked at it -- both from diehard crazies screeching that it's the Democrats who have been perpetrating tricks like this and now scream bloody murder when the Republicans try to do something this simple. Meaning, of course, that they have (1) no idea what Dems may have done in the past and (2) not a shadow of a glimmering of any understanding of the monstrousness of the Virginia 20's stunt.

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