The Washington Post

Virginia Democrats look to courts to stop GOP Senate takeover

Sen. Richard L. "Dick" Saslaw (Fairfax) said Democrats will sue for the right to share power (Rachael Spiegel)

Republicans contend that the election handed them control of the chamber since Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling (R) would cast any tie-breaking votes.

But Democrats argue that Bolling’s voting power is limited, and does not extend to judgeships, the budget and organizational matters such as committee appointments. They said they will turn to the courts to decide the matter.

“My impression is, the lieutenant governor says there’s nothing he can’t vote on,” Sen. Richard Saslaw, Democratic leader of the Senate, said in a morning conference call with reporters. “It ought to get settled for all time. ”

Saslaw and Sen. Donald McEachin, the Democratic Caucus chairman from Henrico, said the party planned to sue but offered few details, even when a reporter on the call noted that the media usually do not report on threatened lawsuits.

“I’m going to leave that up to the lawyers,” McEachin said when asked about the timetable and venue for such a suit.

Asked who the lawyers were, McEachin said: “We’re not ready to tell you that yet.”

In an interview Monday morning, Bolling stood by his party’s interpretation of his voting powers.

“The issue is, if the matter of [Senate] organization comes to a vote and there is a tie vote, can I vote on that issue,” he said. “There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that I can vote on that issue should it result in a tie vote.”

Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R), on a call from India where he was wrapping up a trade mission, said it was his understanding that “on organizational matters, the lieutenant governor breaks the tie vote.”

But McDonnell also pledged to work closely with senators from both parties and suggested they could work out their organizational issues among themselves.

“I will work with Democrats and Republicans to try to get results for Virginia,” he said. “In terms of internal [organization], I think the senators are perfectly able to work those out and handle those accordingly.”

Laura Vozzella covers Virginia politics for The Washington Post.



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