One thing we hear often is that the General Assembly needs to work on "real issues," such as job creation, and stop "wasting time" on social issues; that Virginia's lawmakers must focus on their most important job — the budget. If so, then why are the same Senate liberals who say the legislative session's focus should be on the economy, blocking adoption of a budget? They aren't even willing to pass a Senate budget as a means to get to a conference committee with the House and work out differences.
Twice, they've blocked a budget bill from advancing. Since the Constitution of Virginia requires 21 senators' approval to pass a budget, Lt. Governor Bill Bolling cannot break a tie. In fact, it doesn't even need to get to 20-20, as long as there are not more than 20 "yeas" as was the case on the 20-19 vote that none-the-less sank the Senate budget a couple of weeks ago. The missing vote was that of freshman Senator Barbara Favola (D-31, Arlington), who skipped the proceedings to do an interview on MSNBC about (drum roll, please) social issues! Was she doing the people's business or "wasting time"?
So, who's obstructing resolution of the "real issues"? Who's "wasting time"? The day each chamber presents its budget the chambers entertain floor amendments before the final up-or-down vote. There are dozens of floor amendments, each with the requisite questions of the patron, debate, parliamentary inquiry and vote. The Republican controlled Senate accepted almost all (if not all) of the Democrat sponsored amendments, a process that took considerable time and lasted late into the afternoon, delaying committee hearings into the evening. After all that work and all those accepted budget amendments, Senate Democrats still blocked passage of the budget. What was the purpose of offering all the amendments if they were still going to block the budget? Sounds like a "waste of time" that lasted a lot longer than any debate on a "social issue."
Days later, Senate Democrats, voting as a bloc of 20, put the kibosh on the House budget, even though it had come over with bipartisan support. Apparently, there were no interviews with left wing media that day. But they also had no interest in working (key word) to amend it to their satisfaction. If it's not about interviews or grandstanding, it's not worth their time. Who is obstructing the resolution of the "real issues"? Who is "wasting time"? And over what?
First it was about budget cuts, but all knew, including every editorial page in the commonwealth, that it was about committee assignments and power, a power they lost in the election despite favorably redrawn districts. Then the already thin veil had a wardrobe malfunction when Senate Minority Leader Dick Saslaw (D-35, Springfield) said it was all about parity on the Education and Health Committee (see Bearing Drift).
(Education and Health is where all pro-life issues are referred to in the Senate. Senator Saslaw, who is known for his bombast, two years ago in that committee ridiculed a large bipartisan vote on a House pro-life bill, saying delegates told him they only voted for it because they knew "we'd kill it over here," which no one believed and was an astonishing impugning of motives of fellow legislators. This year, knowing those bills would pass the Senate, these same delegates still voted for pro-life bills.)
Now, according to Senator Charles Colgan (D-29, Prince William) in a floor speech today, it's all about raising taxes. (Lose an election, raise voters' taxes? Sounds like retribution rather than "working" to help struggling families in a tough economy.)
Whether it's sour grapes or wanting to inflict pain on Virginia taxpayers, Senate Democrats, for once candidly speaking, have cornered themselves into not-very-enviable positions. Who wants to run on that platform?
We are two days away from session's end. Senate liberals still have not agreed to help pass a budget. By their own words, approving one is the most important job they have, especially in a challenging economy. Despite the eight weeks they've had to sort out differences, they continue to play games over the power they lost in November. We face deadlines for local governments to fund schools, police and fire fighters; to build or repave roads; for state agencies to continue vital services; for economic development incentives to be put into place; for healthcare — all the essential tools to maintain Virginia's place as the best managed state and best state for business.
So, we ask again: Who is obstructing work on the "real issues"? Who is "wasting time"?