Liberal Democrats might have their legs all a-tingly with Senator Donald McEachin, but they should realize by now that the guy is a blithering idiot. He blew any chances at power sharing in the Senate with antics that display a stunning level of professional incompetence.
McEachin took the party mantle this year to try to thwart Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling from casting tie-breaking votes in the Senate and allowing Republicans to dominate the Senate of Virginia. His first shot at this was a lawsuit seeking an injunction that would stop Bolling from voting on the Senate’s organization yesterday, but even non-lawyers understand you only have a cause of action in civil court if you have actually suffered a harm, rather than may likely suffer a harm in the future if the things you say might happen actually do happen. The Richmond Circuit Court quite predictably refused McEachen’s request.
McEachin’s bluster continued, saying he’d file another action after Bolling had voted until someone apparently clued him into Virginia Code Section 30.5 which requires an automatic continuance of any civil action against the Lieutenant Governor until thirty days after the session ends. Sure, McEachen could file a civil action, but by the time any hearing could be convened the session would be over and the only remedy McEachen could seek would be for a judge to throw out every piece of legislation Bill Bolling voted for during the session. Yeah, like a court is going to toss out a substantial portion of the General Assembly’s actions during a session. Get real.
Just to be fair here, it’s not only Democrats who seem to be lacking in some degree in this kabuki dance. Bolling sought legal advice (outside the Attorney General’s office, which probably would have helped him navigate this minefield better) on what his powers are to break ties and decided the right course was to issue a press release indicating his legal opinion on what he could and could not vote on under the Constitution of Virginia. It was pretty well reasoned, but made it perfectly clear that Bolling didn’t feel that he had the authority to break a tie on a vote for the budget. Richmond insiders refer to this letter as the “please hold us hostage letter” as it practically invites Democrats to demand concessions lest they as a bloc vote against the budget and have it fall. No budget and there’s no Virginia government. It’s quite the nuclear weapon, although an awfully dangerous one to wield.
Had only Bill Bolling not been so afraid of calling on Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli to do his duty and provide legal advice — which I have no doubt whatsoever would have been provided with not only impeccable legal reasoning, but some much needed political perspective in this regard that would have strongly urged him not to tip his hand here, Democrats would have been left guessing and not certain if they had this weapon to employ. If they threatened to hold the budget hostage, Bolling wouldn’t already be on record as saying he won’t break a tie on the budget and at least be able to threaten a tie-breaking vote, even if doing so would likely result in plenty of litigation after the fact. In that scenario a special session might be required to re-do the budget, but there wouldn’t be an opportunity for Democrats to demand concessions outside of the budget in order to deliver at least one vote in support of it.
Any attorney will always say don’t publicly comment on pending litigation. Whoever advised Bolling to lay out his legal opinion on this failed him miserably, and Bolling himself who is no stranger to politics in Richmond should have immediately understood the enormous risks in telling Democrats what he intends to do. If this session goes south with threats from Democrats to block the budget, Bolling is as much to blame for this as the Democrats who might try such a stunt.
At least this is better than the stunning incompetence of Donald McEachin. I can forgive someone to some degree for not understanding the political and tactical implications of sending out a press release that absolutely did not need to be issued, but for an attorney in the General Assembly to demonstrate so badly that he doesn’t know or understand the law is plain embarrassing. C’mon McEachin, you can’t figure out “ripeness” and what is in the Code of Virginia?
You should surrender your law license, if for no other reason than that you soiled your bed on this one so magnificently.
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