Before we get too giddy about Republicans taking control of the Senate of Virginia, and how that’s going to make it so much easier to get legislation dealing with the illegal immigration issue passed this session, it’s worth taking a sober look at what the prospects actually are. While Dick Saslaw’s regime in the senate made it exceedingly difficult to get important legislation passed, it wasn’t entirely the fault of Democrats that employers who have profited from cheap illegal alien labor have been so well protected over the past four years.
Bills dealing with illegal immigration before have come under the purview of the Senate Courts of Justice Committee, which killed every measure dealing with the problem ever referred to them. Sometimes bills were even killed by a three person subcommittee in a private session without a recorded vote, when it was too uncomfortable for legislators to openly support the illegal alien lobby’s agenda. It hasn’t been the Senate per se that has been the problem, it’s been the Courts of Justice Committee that has made sure that no bills dealing with illegal aliens ever got to the floor of the Senate for a vote. Change that committee, and a whole lot changes.
In the previous session, this committee consisted of Marsh (D), Saslaw (D), Quayle (R), Norment (R), Howell (D), Lucas (D), Edwards (D), Reynolds (D), Puller (D), Obenshain (R), McDougle (R), Deeds (D), McEachin (D), Petersen (D), and Stuart (R) for a partisan split of 10-D and 5-R with Marsh as Chairman. Reynolds wasn’t re-elected and Quayle’s district was moved to Northern Virginia and the 13th District will be represented by Dick Black. We’ve all heard that Norment is likely to be named Committee Chairman and that the partisan split will likely be 8-R and 7-D, which is a lot more balanced than what Democrats have been doing lately.
So let’s assume we’re going to have 8 Republicans that we all need to vote as a block to move anything forward, as any one defecting to the minority will allow a bill to be killed. In previous sessions we’d see Reynolds cross partisan lines to support bills dealing with illegal aliens, but that’s one of the two Senate Democrats who lost this election. I don’t expect whichever Democrats are held over in this committee will be as likely to cross lines as Reynolds was, unless they somehow get the impression that their constituents aren’t insane open borders types — which in many of their districts is the case.
So the Republicans that will likely be on this committee might include the following:
Tommy Norment: In 2009 Norment voted for in-state tuition benefits for illegal aliens in HB 1436. In 2008 he took a walk when HB 623 was voted on which dealt with enrolling Virginia in the Section 287(g) Program, allowing Democrats to kill the bill despite defections on their side. That helps to ensure that in parts of Virginia illegal aliens who commit sex crimes will be released back into their communities after they serve their sentence and placed on the Virginia Sex Offender Registry rather than being turned over to the feds for deportation. Norment has been enormously unhelpful on the illegal alien issue, worked to protect employers who unlawfully profit from illegal alien labor at every turn, and been indistinguishable from his Democrat colleagues on this issue. As likely Chairman of the Courts of Justice Committee he will be in a powerful position to provide cover for illegal aliens and those who break the law by hiring them. He shouldn’t have the chairmanship, and he really didn’t deserve evading a primary challenge this past cycle as he has consistently harmed his constituents with his votes. The establishment says otherwise, however.
Richard Stuart: Stuart has been a mixed bag on the issue, having voted in favor of in-state tuition breaks for illegal aliens in HB 1436, but voting correctly on a number of other bills. Without constituent pressure his vote is a toss-up as I haven’t yet seen any consistent display of principle on his part that makes his vote in any way predictable. Perhaps he’ll perform better this cycle, but I imagine it’s going to take a lot of pointed phone calls involving “frank exchanges of ideas” to his office in order to make sure this happens.
Mark Obenshain: Here we finally have someone who says they are a conservative who actually acts like one. He should be the chairman of the committee instead of Norment, but it’s obvious the establishment prefers wishy-washy RINOs to principled leaders like Obenshain. About the best we can hope for is that when Obenshain stands up for principle on these issues it might embarrass his Republican colleagues into voting the right way.
Ryan McDougle: He has been a pretty solid vote on illegal alien issues, although there are some troubling votes in this mix such as voting to kill SB 90, an E-Verify measure considered in 2008. It would appear that when the business lobby, which works overtime to protect employers who profit from cheap illegal alien labor at the expense of unemployed American workers asks him to do something, he rolls over pretty easily. He’s going to need quite a bit of constituent input in order to make him understand that unemployed American workers come before the needs of employers who want to break the law.
Dick Black: Since he’s an attorney, and is replacing the worthless Fred Quayle in the Senate who previously sat on this committee, it’s likely Black will be picked to fill one of the open slots on Courts, and every indication is that he will be a solid vote for the rule of law. He and Obenshain could have a very positive impact on this committee.
Steve Newman: Newman’s name has been mentioned as a likely member of Courts, and has been on this committee before. He voted against E-Verify on SB 90 but has been a pretty strong social conservative, so it’s hard to tell how he will be. I’d expect he’s going to perform about as reliably as McDougle, which isn’t entirely reassuring.
There are two additional Republican slots to fill here and I don’t have much insight into who they will likely be. Norment will likely pick Senators to serve alongside him who will have an outlook pretty close to his own, and there are plenty of those types there in the senate. Ultimately, it doesn’t look like the composition among Republicans in the committee will have the courage to stand up as a block to the business lobby when any bills concerning unscrupulous employers of illegal aliens are considered unless enormous constituent pressure is brought to bear. It will only take one Republican peeling off to kill a bill, and among this group there are a number of senators who are likely to do that.
Jeff Frederick, someone who would have been a tremendous addition to this committee had he won on November 8th, frequently told people at gatherings that it’s not about what party controls the Senate, it’s who the Senators are and what they stand for that counts. That will be demonstrated during the upcoming General Assembly session as I expect we will see some decidedly un-conservative behavior from the Senate Republicans that will be every bit as enraging as what we saw from Democrats when they were in control.
To change that it’s going to take constituents politely, but firmly and frequently demanding their Senators represent them the right way. Don’t expect that Republican control has fundamentally changed anything in the Senate of Virginia. It really hasn’t. In many ways many of the Republicans in the Senate aren’t a whole lot better than the Democrats, and it’s been that way for a long time, so changing party control there isn’t necessarily going to bring us much in the way of better outcomes.
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