One day after their procedural maneuvers failed to block a Republican takeover of the Virginia Senate, Democrats lost hope for Plan B: rushing to the courthouse.
Sen. A. Donald McEachin (D-Henrico), who said Wednesday that lawyers were “on standby” and that reporters should “stay tuned” for his party’s next move, said Thursday he would not seek an injunction to thwart the takeover.
McEachin had been widely expected to seek an injunction to block Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling (R) from voting on matters of Senate organization. The Senate is evenly divided between 20 Democrats and 20 Republicans, with Bolling holding a tie-breaker vote.
McEachin sought such an injunction in December as part of a larger lawsuit seeking a declaratory judgment that Bolling lacks authority to vote on organization and a number of other matters. A Richmond Circuit Court judge turned down the injunction request that month, saying the matter was not yet “ripe” because Bolling had not cast such a vote.
Bolling voted on organization when the General Assembly got underway Wednesday, which not only allowed the GOP to have its way with crucial committee assignments, but also gave McEachin an opening to try again for an injunction.
But on Thursday, McEachin said he would wait to let the existing lawsuit play out in court.
State law protects Bolling, like members of the General Assembly, from being compelled to appear in court on a civil case during the session. That immunity had not, however, stopped Democrats from making noise about rushing to the courthouse as soon as Bolling voted. Republicans had anticipated the move as weel. McEachin, however, said Thursday that he’d never planned to try again for an injunction.
“Now we’ll do the declaratory judgment action and we’ll see what happens,” he said.
McEachin’s decision not to seek an injunction came as a pleasant surprise to many Republicans, though some indicated they’d always thought the threat was a bluff.
“I am encouraged that my friends in the Senate Democrat Caucus have decided not to pursue an injunction against the continued operation of the Senate,” Senate Majority Leader Thomas K. Norment (R-James City) wrote in an e-mail. “As demonstrated by the thoroughly civil and courteous debate on the Senate Floor yesterday, all Senators are committed to adhering to the high standards of conduct that have characterized our body since its creation. While there undoubtedly will be other principled disagreements over issues that come before us during this session, Senate Republicans are looking forward to working collaboratively with our friends in the Democratic Caucus to meet the challenges facing the Commonwealth.”
Sen. Ryan T. McDougle (R-Hanover), chairman of the Republican Senate Caucus, also took the development as good news.
“I think it’s positive that they’re not going to file for a temporary injunction and the work of the Senate can begin in earnest,” he said. “We’re ready to go and take up legislation that Virginians are going to find to be important.”
McEachin said he hopes the judge will ultimately weigh in and limit Bolling’s voting power. He said no date had been set for a hearing in the case.