Threats of lawsuits are in the air as Virginia lawmakers make sense of the unannounced amendment to the 2011 legislative redistricting rammed through the State Senate on a party-line vote on Monday.
“If this plan stands, there will be litigation, you can be sure of that,” said Senate Democratic Leader Dick Saslaw, D-Fairfax.
The bill, which would dramatically strengthen Republican chances to increase representation in the State Senate, was brought up on a day that Democratic State Sen. Henry Marsh, an African-American legislator from Richmond, was away from the State Capitol to attend the presidential inauguration. It was passed on a party-line 20-19 vote over objections from Democrats.
Marsh, in a statement, called the rushed vote “shameful.”
“I was outraged and I was saddened yesterday afternoon to learn that the Senate Republicans had used my absence to force through radical changes to all 40 Senate districts,” Marsh said.
Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, a Republican, has said through a spokesman that he would not have cast a tie-breaking vote in favor of the bill if it had come to a 20-20 vote. Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell has also spoken critically of the Senate Republican putsch, saying he thinks the vote isn’t “a good way to do business.”
Presumptive Democratic gubernatorial nominee Terry McAuliffe urged McDonnell to push his partymates to reverse course.
“I join Gov. McDonnell in urging the legislature to end this divisive partisan effort and instead focus on making Virginia the best place for business with mainstream solutions on transportation and education. We simply cannot afford to have the legislature spend more time on divisive partisan fights, especially as we have so many important issues to address,” McAuliffe said.
U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine said in a joint statement that the move was not reflective of the way Virginia leaders should be conducting state business.
“On a day when Americans celebrated Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday and inaugurated Barack Obama as president, Virginia Senate Republicans took advantage of the absence of civil rights leader Sen. Henry Marsh to push through a hyper-partisan change to Virginia’s already gerrymandered legislative district map. This is not the way we should be conducting the people’s business in Virginia. We are encouraged by Gov. McDonnell’s statements today expressing disapproval of the tactics that were used. We urge legislative leaders and other elected officials to do the right thing to correct this disappointing and disruptive partisan action,” the senators said.