VIRGINIA REPUBLICANS have embarrassed themselves in the unforgiving glare of the national spotlight this winter by muscling through the General Assembly a batch of partisan, incendiary and pointlessly provocative legislation. They’ve enacted bills to thrill the gun lobby (and gun traffickers), delight antiabortion activists and impede voters who lack IDs — mainly Democratic-leaning minority, poor and elderly citizens — based on phony concerns about the nonexistent problem of voting fraud.
Sensing an advantage, Democrats in the state Senate are now striking back with a partisan foray of their own. Using the 20 seats they control in the 40-member upper house, they have blocked passage of the state’s two-year budget and are threatening a government shutdown — unprecedented in Richmond in modern times — unless Republicans redress what Democrats think is a skewed balance of power. Specifically, they want Senate committees, where real legislative power often resides, to reflect the body’s even split between Democrats and Republicans.