Senate adjourns without taking action on redistricting

Democrat vs. Republican on whiteThe Virginia State Senate adjourned a special session on Monday without addressing a call from Gov. Terry McAuliffe to address court-ordered changes to Virginia’s congressional districts.

Nineteen Senate Democrats were joined by Republican State Sen. John Watkins and Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam in the 21-20 vote to adjourn. Democratic Caucus Chair Donald McEachin cited the refusal of Republicans to meet with Gov. Terry McAuliffe to discuss a path forward as the reason why.

“They failed to bring any maps today for the public to review. And we are told that the House planned to adjourn until just one day before our court-ordered deadline. That timeframe would have left little time for senators or the governor to debate or review any map they did eventually approve, and it would potentially leave the public with no real chance to offer informed comments or recommend changes,” McEachin said.

“Virginians expect and deserve a fair and open process. Since House Republicans will only offer a rushed partisan circus, it is unfortunately better that the court redraw the lines,” McEachin said.

Democratic Leader Richard L. Saslaw said Republicans had “made it clear from the start that they had no intention of working towards a solution to the court-ordered redistricting ahead of the September 1st deadline.”

“The only bills put forward came from Democratic legislators, and attempts to open up the dialogue across the aisle were instantly shut down by Republican leadership,” Saslaw said.

House and Senate Republican leaders issued a joint statement on the adjournment vote that effectively howled in protest at the move.

“Senate Democrats’ unconstitutional attempt to adjourn sine die directly defies a federal court ruling, ignores repeated requests from Governor Terry McAuliffe and singly-handedly eliminates any possibility of a legislative remedy on redistricting,” read the statement, attributed to House Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford), Senate Majority Leader Thomas K. Norment Jr. (R-James City), House Majority Leader Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights), Senate Republican Caucus Chairman Ryan T. McDougle (R-Hanover), House Republican Caucus Chairman Tim Hugo (R-Fairfax), House Majority Whip Jackson Miller (R-Manassas) and Deputy Majority Leader Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah).

“As Governor McAuliffe repeatedly said, the General Assembly is under a court ruling to redraw Virginia’s Third Congressional District by September 1st. The Governor called this special session of the General Assembly specifically for the purpose of redistricting. The House of Delegates acted in good faith and announced five days ago committee meetings and public hearings in order to develop a remedy to comply with the Court ruling. In fact, Senate Democrats took this unconstitutional action almost exactly as the House of Delegates began a public hearing to solicit citizen input on redistricting.

“Not only is this attempt to adjourn blatantly hypocritical and deeply irresponsible, it also directly defies both a federal court ruling and the Governor. Democrats have single-handedly shutdown any possibility of a legislative remedy on redistricting and have no one to blame but themselves,” the Republican statement concluded.

Gov. McAuliffe said in a statement that “the opportunity for a legislative remedy has ended” because GOP leaders “offered nothing for Virginians to consider.”

“Therefore, it is appropriate that the Court now take action and provide relief to the citizens of the Commonwealth in the form of a new map based on the principles of equal representation, protection of minority voting rights, compact and contiguous districts, and the integrity of communities of interest,” McAuliffe said.

“It is clear, given the Court ruling, that the only means to achieve that goal is to take a comprehensive approach that starts from the beginning and erases the taint of racial and partisan politics that poisons the old unconstitutional map,” McAuliffe said.

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