Bolling, Cuccinelli play key roles in Senate abortion vote
It's not always easy being the lieutenant governor of Virginia.
Sure, you've got the title, the prestige, and an excellent springboard from which to stage a run for the governor's mansion. But you have no official job portfolio and the state considers you a part-timer. Unlike the chairman of the District city council, you don't even get a government-owned a car.
But there is one important task delegated to the state's second-in-command. Day in and day out during the legislative session, the LG stands atop the august dais of the Virginia State Senate, presiding over the proceedings and waiting for the possibility of tie votes. That's when he swings into action, exercising his constitutional duty to cast a vote and break a deadlock.
Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling (R), who has made clear he is running for governor in 2013, has broken 16 tied votes since assuming office in 2006. But none was bigger than Thursday's decisive vote in favor of a bill that would regulate state abortion clinics as hospitals. The vote was a key moment for a man who was once considered in the conservative wing of his party but could now face a challenge from the right for the gubernatorial nomination from Attorney Gen. Ken Cuccinelli (R).
In a statement, Bolling said he did not believe the impact of the legislation will be "anywhere near as draconian as some would suggest." Abortion rights advocates have said they fear new regulations could put as many as 17 of the state's 21 clinics out of business and make Virginia one of the most restrictive for abortion in the country.
"Up until now, we have had very little regulatory oversight over abortion clinics. I have always felt that we needed more regulations in place to assure patient safety at these facilities, and more authority for the Department of Health to inspect these facilities. This legislation will give us the ability to do this and I think that is something everyone should support," Bolling said.
Cuccinelli has said he plans to run for reelection as the state's top lawyer in 2013, but he hasn't entirely ruled out the possibility of challenging Bolling for the governor's mansion. And he's had many more opportunities than Bolling to demonstrate his bona fides to the GOP base--suing the federal government over health care and green house gas regulations, instructing colleges not to include language on sexual orientation in campus non-discrimination policies, seeking records from the University of Virginia in an attempt to demonstrate that global warming research is a fraud.
Indeed, Bolling did not have his moment in the sun Thursday all to himself. Cuccinelli, too, was very much in evidence. At one point, Senate Democrats delayed voting on the bill for more than an hour, claiming the stall tactic was intended to allow time for Cuccinelli to weigh in on the constitutionality of the legislation.
The attorney general swung right into action, sending a two-paragraph letter to the state Capitol declaring, "In response to current inquiries about the constitutionality of Senate bill 924, as amended, it is my view that this legislation is constitutional."
If abortion providers were to sue over the new statute (once signed into law by Gov. Bob McDonnell (R)--he gets to play a role here too), it would be Cuccinelli who would go to court to defend it.
"The only benefit I see to having this passed is to give the attorney general's office more work to do, to defend an unconstitutional piece of legislation," Sen. John Edwards (D-Roanoke) said sarcastically during Thursday's floor debate.
Rosalind S. Helderman
| February 25, 2011; 10:20 AM ET
Categories: Bill Bolling, General Assembly 2011, House of Delegates, Ken Cuccinelli, Robert F. McDonnell, Rosalind Helderman, State Senate
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