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Special Session: How to Relegate Your Party to Minority Status
By Stephen J. Rossie

Square2017 imageRichmond - In the aftermath of the Democrat landslide last November in which Republicans maintained their House majority by the pick of a draw that settled a tied House election, the GOP caucus expressed that it could regain five or six of the 15 lost seats. That’s the number of districts, they believe, that are mostly reliable Republican that flukishly got caught up in the wave.

It’s reasonable thinking. It happens often — a message is sent, two years go by and the voters reflexively return to the norm, especially after they see what the other party had up its sleeve. Further helping the turned out party is when the chief executive is of the opposite party, which usually experiences losses as a check to the guy in charge. The notable difference is that in Virginia, with its unlimited campaign donations, a governor can raise unheard of amounts of cash to feed his party’s House and Senate candidates.

For Republicans, an immediate rebound in the 2019 General Assembly elections is a matter of survival since redistricting will take place the following two years. Even with a refortified majority it will be a tough task since Democrat Governor Ralph Northam will have a say in the process. But if the GOP loses its one-seat majorities in each chamber it will evaporate for the foreseeable future, just as it redrew the Democrats into irrelevancy in the early 2000s.

They will have themselves to blame. Remarkably, a small band of Republicans still insist on writing not so much a budget this year, but a plan to relegate its party to minority status. Not only are they splitting the party by backtracking on promises and, worse, actual previous votes, it is intent on creating as many as 400,000 new dependent voters through Obamacare Medicaid expansion as well as funding their opponents, such as Planned Parenthood, through not only Medicaid expansion, but millions in new funding for the so-called "LARC” program, which will spend millions of dollars paying for contraception, often supplied by the abortion industry.

As of Tuesday morning, two breakaway Republican senators, Emmett Hanger (R-Augusta County) and Frank Wagner (R-Virginia Beach), who planned to join the 19 Democrats to modify and pass the House Medicaid-expanded budget, finalized the self-destruct plan. It will include more so-called conservative reforms as a way to rationalize its capitulation — instead of letting the Democrats own the fiscal and social fiasco such irresponsible spending will inevitably bring.

The split in the policy by a minority of the party (two out of 21 senators and 19 out of 51 delegates) will invite several divisive primaries and/or demoralize the party’s base ensuring not only that those five or six seats are out of reach, but that more current GOP seats will be in play. That’s what happens when a party bends to perceived political winds, repudiates at least five years of votes, lacks courage to do what is right and attempts to buy votes with taxpayer money — all while funding its own defeat.

The feeble Republican House Caucus counter offer thus far is trite scare tactics of tax increases and gun grabs if the Democrats complete the takeover. Perhaps saving the Republicans from themselves is the Trump administration. It plans to roll out a plan this summer to end, or at least continue to severely curtail, the eligibility of recipients in states relying on federal funds for expanded Medicaid.

Stephen J. (Steve) Rossie is a Richmond-based public and government relations consultant. He has been a General Assembly lobbyist since 2006 and has written about Virginia government since 2007.


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