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Virginia senator who called U.S. Capitol rioters ‘patriots’ is censured

Virginia state Sen. Amanda Chase (R-Chesterfield) objects to being stripped of her lone committee assignment by the Senate Rules Committee on Jan. 19.
Virginia state Sen. Amanda Chase (R-Chesterfield) objects to being stripped of her lone committee assignment by the Senate Rules Committee on Jan. 19. (Bob Brown/AP)

The Virginia Senate voted Wednesday to censure state Sen. Amanda F. Chase (R-Chesterfield) over a long pattern of behavior that includes referring to the insurrectionists who attacked the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 as “patriots” and making insulting comments toward the Virginia Capitol Police and the clerk of the Senate.

The censure resolution — only the second in modern Virginia history — was entered by Sen. John J. Bell (D-Loudoun) but also received support from Republicans. It passed 24 to 9 after lengthy debate.

“The need to protect the honor of this body compelled me to proceed,” Bell said.

In long, sometimes angry remarks before the vote, Chase, who is seeking the GOP nomination for governor, accused fellow senators of trying to humiliate her and threatened legal action.

But some GOP colleagues said they felt compelled to act. Senate Minority Leader Thomas K. Norment Jr. (R-James City), one of three Republicans to vote for censure, said Chase had demonstrated “hypocrisy” and a lack of integrity. Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel (R-Fauquier), who also voted for the measure, said Chase’s continued association with the Republican Party was “embarrassing.”

The debate over censuring Chase has preoccupied the Senate for more than a week, threatening to overshadow weighty issues of the pandemic and controversial initiatives to end the death penalty and legalize marijuana. Chase’s aggressively provocative politics — she has described herself as a version of former president Donald Trump “in heels” — has rankled fellow Republicans in this increasingly blue state.

Chase suggested after the Capitol riot that left-wing “antifa or BLM agents of destruction” were to blame — an assertion that contradicts the evidence. She spoke to the crowd of Trump supporters on Jan. 6 but left before they went to the Capitol and crashed through security lines.

The censure resolution also noted that Chase accused Democrats of “treason” for their role in a “stolen” presidential election; dismissed the seriousness of the coronavirus pandemic; used social media to launch attacks on members of both parties that allegedly led to threats from the public; and said Sen. Jennifer L. McClellan (D-Richmond), who is also running for governor, couldn’t represent all Virginians because she helps lead the Black Caucus.

Those actions “represent to me a bit of a call for help, and I hope that she gets that help,” said Sen. Stephen D. Newman (R-Bedford).

He and Sen. Mark D. Obenshain (R-Rockingham) — who said Chase has “demonstrated an open and omnidirectional hostility to the occupants of this room” — raised procedural concerns about the censure resolution. Rather than oppose it, though, Obenshain and five other Republicans simply did not vote, to make clear that they disapproved of Chase’s behavior. Newman voted against the resolution.

Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D), who presides over the Senate, agreed with those lawmakers that the censure resolution should have been supported by a committee investigation of each allegation. He at one point ruled that the resolution was out of order, but Majority Leader Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax) immediately called for a vote that overruled Fairfax’s finding.

Bell had offered last week to withdraw the censure resolution if Chase would apologize for her statements and actions. But she only apologized for her “passion” for the Constitution.

On Wednesday, Chase struck back at her colleagues, condemning those who had participated in social justice protests last summer. “If it weren’t for double standards there would be no standards at all in this body,” she thundered.

She told Norment, her party’s most senior senator, that “your behavior, sir, does not fit that of a sitting senator.”

At the urging of other lawmakers, Chase did, finally, denounce any white supremacists who might have had a role in the attack on the Capitol. And she said she was “sorry that I’ve hurt a lot of your feelings.”

But it was not enough to head off the vote.

Last week, the full Senate also voted to strip Chase of her lone committee assignment. She was removed from three other committee posts last year after her decision, in late 2019, to quit the Senate Republican Caucus to protest the reelection of caucus leaders who had criticized her after a string of controversies, including cursing at a Capitol Police officer over a parking spot.

The Jan. 6 insurrection

The House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection has held a series of high-profile hearings throughout the summer: Find Day 8′s highlights and analysis.

Congressional hearings: The House committee investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol has conducted a series of hearings to share its findings with the U.S. public. The eighth hearing focused on Trump’s inaction on Jan. 6. Here’s a guide to the biggest moments so far.

Will there be charges? The committee could make criminal referrals of former president Donald Trump over his role in the attack, Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) said in an interview.

What we know about what Trump did on Jan. 6: New details emerged when Hutchinson testified before the committee and shared what she saw and heard on Jan. 6.

The riot: On Jan. 6, 2021, a pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to stop the certification of the 2020 election results. Five people died on that day or in the immediate aftermath, and 140 police officers were assaulted.

Inside the siege: During the rampage, rioters came perilously close to penetrating the inner sanctums of the building while lawmakers were still there, including former vice president Mike Pence. The Washington Post examined text messages, photos and videos to create a video timeline of what happened on Jan. 6.