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House Republicans, torn over transportation, gather in Bath County.
Tuesday, June 4, 2013
Oh, to be a fly on the wall at The Homestead, where Republicans in the House of Delegates wrap up their annual fund-raising retreat today.
The legislator-lobbyist schmoozefest should be a shining moment for House Speaker Bill Howell, R-Stafford County, coming off the most effective session of his tenure as the chamber’s presiding officer. Howell sponsored Gov. Bob McDonnell’s transportation funding bill and gave House negotiators the leeway to work out a compromise with the politically divided Senate. The pro-business organization Virginia FREE praised the speaker and the governor, saying they “showed courage and put a lot on the line” to pass the state’s most significant transportation funding bill since 1986.
But nearly half of Howell’s 68-member caucus voted against the compromise, unwilling to increase any taxes to address the state’s chronic transportation funding problems. What are they telling the lobbyists who contributed to the caucus’s coffers in exchange for some face time at the highlands resort? How did they greet McDonnell, who was scheduled to join the festivities Monday evening?
The Homestead gathering will raise money for a caucus that carries a mixed message to the voters this fall. The speaker and House Majority Leader Kirk Cox sided with the outgoing governor by taking hard votes for a less-than-perfect transportation bill, and encouraging others to do the same. Do they speak for the GOP? Or do the 33 delegates who either voted “no” or intended to vote “no” on the final version of the bill?
Republicans should have no trouble keeping firm control of the House this fall, since most are running in ironclad safe districts. They’ll have to decide among themselves who controls the GOP caucus going forward.
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