Just a few hours ago, Governor Terry McAuliffe held a press conference to address his actions on the budget passed by the General Assembly just last week. Boxed in by the necessity of passing budget by the start of July, McAuliffe begrudgingly approved the budget, stating, “If it were not June 20 … I may well have vetoed the entire budget.” Governor McAuliffe did hand down several line item vetoes though and most relate in one way or another to the expansion of ObamaCare in Virginia. Incredibly, the Governor blamed Republicans for the delay in passing a budget, when it was his party while in control of the state Senate that caused the entire showdown. Should the Governor's vetoes be sustained, it will hasten the decline of the rule of law in the Commonwealth. The vetoes also demonstrate that his charm offensive has been an abject failure, so the Governor has decided to be vindictive. His action today is one of the saddest examples we’ve seen in Virginia of what has happened to American politics.
Governor McAuliffe vetoed the Medicaid Innocation and Reform Commission (MIRC) language in the budget along with Senator Bill Stanley’s amendment, adopted last week, prohibiting the Governor from unilaterally expanding ObamaCare in Virginia. There are a few problems with this action. First, the Virginia Supreme Court previously ruled against former Governor George Allen when he tried to expand the line item veto to so-called “language only amendments.” This is why Senator Stanley referred to his amendment as being veto-proof. Governor McAuliffe lacks the constitutional authority to veto items in the budget that do not also include an appropriation. The Stanley amendment does not include an appropriation, which means that under existing Virginia Supreme Court precedent, the Governor is attempting to act outside the law. Second, even without the budget language, Virginia Code § 30-347 still requires the MIRC’s existence and calls for “[a]n affirmative vote by three of the five members of the Commission from the House of Delegates and three of the five members of the Commission from the Senate shall be required to endorse any reform proposal to [expand Medicaid].” Of course, we have learned with this administration that the rule of law doesn’t mean much.
This action is most likely to be challenged and the Supreme Court of Virginia will likely be the final arbiter. Facing a likely defeat at the Supreme Court and knowing that he faces an uphill battle to convince the Virginia Supreme Court to reverse its precedent, the Governor decided to go ahead and punish the Supreme Court. How? He vetoed all appropriations for new judges. The Supreme Court has long pushed for an increase in judges across the Commonwealth to address the increased volume of cases. Without the appropriation, justice will be delayed for many across the Commonwealth. Being vindictive and alienating the justices who will decide whether the Governor’s veto of the Stanley amendment seems short sighted and foolhardy.
The General Assembly will meet on Monday to consider Governor McAuliffe's line item vetoes. But that won't be the last chapter in this sad saga. Terry McAuliffe has brought President Obama's lawlessness to Virginia. If he isn't stopped by the Supreme Court now, the future of our Commonwealth is in peril.