Sen. Richard L. Saslaw got wind Thursday that House Democrats might force a vote on a bill to redraw Senate lines across the state, so he dashed from his chamber to make sure that didn’t happen. Republicans had rammed the measure through the Senate on Monday in a sneak attack that Saslaw had compared to Pearl Harbor. And ever since, the Senate Democratic leader from Fairfax has been quietly pressing House Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford) to do away with it, according to legislators and Capitol staffers. Even though they were in close contact, Saslaw was not sure where Howell stood on the bill, which the speaker could kill with a procedural move. And with good reason.
Howell and Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) are conflicted about how to get out of a mess that members of their party had thrust them into, according to two Republicans and a Democratic senator familiar with their thinking but not authorized to speak publicly on the issue.
The governor and speaker are said to be struggling over whether to advance the plan or kill it. If they opt to do it in, the question becomes whether Howell should dispatch it by way of a parliamentary ruling or McDonnell by way of a veto.
“They just don’t know what they’re going to do yet,” said a GOP strategist familiar with their thinking. “They’re human beings, just handed this proposal.”