A redistricting bill is being amended by Senate Republicans during the last reading, with no hearing or public input.
— Waldo Jaquith (@waldojaquith) January 21, 2013
This is breaking news, so I don't yet have all the details, but here's what I know, via Blue Virginia:
"Wow- Republicans in the Virginia Senate are now trying to redraw the maps and draw at least one Democratic Senator out of the Senate. Happening right now on the floor."
"COUP GOING ON IN VIRGINIA SENATE: Republicans have just brought all new Senate districts to the floor with Henry Marsh gone in DC, now 30 minutes of debate before they send them to the House of Delegates."
"COUP SUCCESSFUL- NEW DISTRICTS HEADED TO VIRGINIA HOUSE. AT LEAST ONE DEMOCRATIC SENATOR TO BE OUSTED."
After Ben's first Facebook notice, I went to the live feed of the Virginia Senate and watched as Sen. Saslaw, Sen. McEachin, and Sen. Barker went ape**** on the Republicans for what they said was a totally underhanded, unconstitutional move that will utterly poison relations in the Virginia State Senate. The fact that Republicans pulled this underhanded maneuver while most people were focused on the inauguration and Democratic State Senator Marsh was out of town (for the inauguration) really says it all. Wow.
I'll update as more becomes available.
Here are some Blue Virginia updates:
UPDATE: Sen. Ebbin tweets, "VA Senate GOP trying to redistrict w/ substitute bill with no notice in violation of our state Constitution" and "VA Senate GOP votes to redistrict in violation of state Constitution."
UPDATE #2: One of the sharpest Virginia political analysts I know, KentonNgo, tweets: "If VA Republicans were smart enough not to touch the already cleared VRA districts, the plan will likely stand. Dems are toast." Ugh.
UPDATE #3: Here are the votes as Senate Republicans rammed this one through on 20-19, party-line votes with longtime civil rights champion, Democratic State Senator Henry Marsh, at the inauguration in Washington, DC.
Also, this footnote from Talking Points Memo:
As mentioned earlier, seizing on the absence of a Democratic senator who happens to be a veteran of the civil rights movement and was in Washington, on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, for the second inauguration of the country’s first black president, Republicans in the evenly split Virginia state Senatepushed through a surprise mid-decade redistricting plan to try to gain decisive control of the body in the next election.
We’re not done yet.
At the end of this wild day, the “Senate adjourned in memory or (sic) General Thomas J. ‘Stonewall’ Jackson,” according to the minutes of the session. Jan. 21 is the Confederate general’s birthday.
Update 1/22/13: Waldo Jaquith observed this debacle first hand, and tweeted it as it was happening. But his article this morning reveals just how craven the Virginia Senate Republicans are.
Senate Republicans’ MLK Day gift to Senator Marsh and to Virginia is to use the re-inauguration of the United States’ first black president as cover to pass a bill that will make it harder for black candidates to get elected.
Now the bill goes to the House of Delegates, who will no doubt pass it, and then to Gov. Bob McDonnell, who said he was as surprised by this bill as everybody else. We’re about to learn if McDonnell has really become the centrist he’s presenting himself as, or if he’s the same old right-wing extremist. I fear we already know the answer.
Unfortunately, McDonnell has indicated that it's likely he'll sign it.