The 40 member Virginia State Senate is tied with 20 Democrats and 20 Republicans. However, senate Democrats have decided to use the Lt. Governor, who is a Democrat, to leverage control of the body. Senators approved the committee report restructuring the committee membership on the same 20-20 vote, with Democrat Lt. Governor Northam breaking the tie.
Republican State Senator Steve Martin commented on the power grab:
"If the Democrats in the VA Senate adopt these rules today, they will give the new Chairman of Rules the power to unilaterally kill Senate bills amended by the House. We are being told that it would be seldom, but the subjective, undefined term of "substantial" is the only qualifier. To me that means the Senate Democrats are making a decision to ban House amendments to Senate bills, whenever they so desire. The truth is they will be using this rule to protect their members from tough votes. Parliamentary processes of Bicameral legislatures allow amendments to return to the body of origin for acceptance or rejection. They are giving one person (chair of Rules) the ability to hijack any Senate bill with a House amendment. The rule is insidious. The rule is certainly the most dangerous rule offered by this legislative body in my 27 regular sessions. It can be easily abused, and would put that Chair in a very awkward position on matters effecting particular concerns from his/her area."
GOP state Chairman Pat Mullins commented:
" today's display of abject lawlessness on the part of Sens. Don McEachin and Dick Saslaw was revolting. Not one of these Senate Democrats should be able to speak of the 'Virginia Way' ever again with a straight face or a clear conscience."
"Like petulant children, Senate Democrats couldn't articulate why or how the rules should change with any pretense of adherence to the rule of law. They fumbled around for hours, doing whatever they could to hide what was a naked power grab, pure and simple."
"All they knew is that they had 21, and they should get their way, the rule of law be damned."