In one of the slimier political moves in memory, a conservative Democrat in southern Virginia was persuaded to resign his job last week on the promise of some lucrative new employment for himself and his daughter. Sen. Phillip Puckett’s sudden resignation gave the Republicans a 20-19 majority in the Senate, reversing a Democratic controlling 20-20 vote and a Democratic lieutenant governor tie-breaker.
The timing made the whole thing obvious: with the Republican majority in the Senate to support the Republican control in the House of Delegates, the GOP forces moved swiftly to overcome the year’s budget impasse and adopt a budget for the state.
The main loser was the Democrats’ persistent efforts to force the GOP’s hand on the expansion of Medicaid in the state under the president’s Affordable Care Act. Without that, 400,000 Virginians remain without any health care and the millions in federal subsidies to help pay for it.
The budget minus this Medicaid component now passed by both houses in the state legislature sits on the desk of Gov. Terry McAuliffe, awaiting his signature.
If he fails to provide it, if he vetoes the bill as he could, the result would be a shutdown in the Virginia government, lacking a budget past July 1, could have a serious impact on a large number of state programs.
However, it is our opinion that it is time for Democrats to start pushing back, seriously, on some of these important matters, especially when they are so egregiously harming the public interest, and with more than rhetoric when possible.
Here’s a chance for this new governor, with his flair for the dramatic to begin with, to make even more of a national name for himself than he now has, by saying “enough is enough!” and taking this fight to the next level.
We fear that should he fail to do something like that, the wind will come out of his considerable sails, and of many progressive causes that his party is struggling to advance in the state. On other hand, a “put up your dukes” donnybrook over this budget, something the governor was contemplating as long as he had the Senate on his side, will invigorate his party and his cause.
Oftentimes morale is the most important driver of the the political process. We have many examples of this in recent years, and if ever a line in the sand was needed to bring the right fight to the enemy, this could be it. The governor’s charismatic personality would be a big factor in a government shutdown fight that would be squarely for the right moral reason.
There is no doubt that Virginia is headed in the right direction, overall. However, that process could be stalled for decades if the standard-bearers of the new tomorrow fail to lead when they’re called to do so. This is just such a situation.
The legislature needs a total upheaval, and here’s an opportunity to spark just such an outcome.