Democrats blocked the state Senate's version of Virginia's two-year, $85 billion budget proposal Thursday in an effort to pressure Republicans into giving them more power in the chamber's committees.
After a motion from Senate Democrats to reconfigure the makeup of committees was rejected, the party's legislators threatened to hold up the budget if Republicans continue to refuse.
The spending plan failed 20-17 on Thursday.
The Democrats first asked Republicans to consider sharing chairmanships after the November election left the chamber split evenly, with Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling (R) as the tie-breaking vote. The Republicans rejected the idea and instead of their own party, giving them not just all the chairmanships but also majorities in 10 of the 11 committees — despite Senate rules that call for committees to reflect the party proportions.
The Democrats are now demanding more seats on crucial committees, as stated in a joint letter from Senate Minority Leader Richard Saslaw and Sen. Donald McEachin to Senate Majority Leader Thomas Norment on Feb. 17.
The proposal would affect six of the 11 committees, and Republicans would continue to hold the chairmanship except on the finance committee, for which the Democrats are proposing a co-chairmanship.
"[T]he real reason the Senate Budget must lose — at this point — is so the power balance in Richmond can be adjusted and the national embarrassment can end," Sen. Chap Petersen (D-34th District) wrote on his blog after the vote Thursday.
Petersen, a lawyer for 18 years and equity partner at Surovell, Petersen, Isaacs & Levy PLC, lost his seat on the Courts of Justice committee at the start of the 2012 legislative session.
"The ‘no’ vote was the result of them having political-bruised egos going back to day one, when they did not get what they felt was a fair distribution of the committee assignments," Norment said to the Washington Post.
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