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Which gubernatorial candidate is most likely to shut down Virginia’s government?
Republican Ken Cuccinelli and Democrat Terry McAuliffe pointed fingers at each other during a Sept. 25 debate.
Cuccinelli noted that McAuliffe has repeatedly said that, if elected, he would not a sign a budget that failed to expand the state’s Medicaid program as allowed under Obamacare. Cuccinelli said McAuliffe’s vow is tantamount threatening a state government shutdown -- a statement we’ll look at in the coming days.
McAuliffe threw the dart back at Cuccinelli.
"The only one on this stage that almost had (a shut down) effected was Ken Cuccinelli, when he almost derailed the Virginia budget when he was trying to defund Planned Parenthood," McAuliffe said. "So he’s the only one on the stage that actually tried to shut down our government."
When asked for more information, McAuliffe’s campaign said Cuccinelli tried to padlock state government on Feb. 27, 2008. The General Assembly, deliberating a two-year state budget to go into effect at midyear, faced a procedural deadline that day. The House and the Senate were scheduled to advance competing versions of the budget, which would be ironed out in the coming days by negotiators from each chamber.
Cuccinelli, then a state senator, threw a crimp into the proceedings by offering an amendment that would have stripped Planned Parenthood of all state funding -- roughly $250,000 at the time.
Democrats, who held a 21-19 majority in the Senate, traditionally had been supportive of Planned Parenthood, while Republicans had been critical of the women’s health group, which provides abortion services. But one of the Democrats -- Sen. Charles Colgan of Prince William County -- was firmly opposed to abortions and planned to vote for Cuccinelli’s amendment. And there was no doubt that Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, a Republican, would cast a tie-breaking vote to defund Planned Parenthood.
Democrats spent much of the afternoon in caucus trying to pressure Colgan to change his vote. They failed, and Bolling pushed the amendment through. Cuccinelli’s victory was short-lived, however. The Planned Parenthood amendment was not part of the final budget approved by the General Assembly two weeks later.
McAuliffe’s campaign says an Associated Press story from that day justifies the claim that Cuccinelli "tried to shut down" state government through his amendment. The article said the budget "was almost killed Wednesday in a partisan Senate duel." The story added, however, that the amendment was one of several issues that strained relations that day and kept the Senate in session almost eight hours before it narrowly approved its version of the budget. Even if the Senate had failed to pass its spending plan, the article noted, the state’s complicated budget process would have remained alive.
McAuliffe’s campaign also backed the statement by pointing to a 2008 blog from the conservative Family Foundation that said Cuccinelli’s amendment "shut down the Senate for over four hours while Republicans and Democrats fought within their own caucuses."
It should be noted that none of the news stories written that day characterized Cuccinelli’s amendment as an attempt to shut down state government or quoted him making such a claim.
The General Assembly that year passed a $77 billion biennial budget on March 13. That was five days past its original deadline, which is not an unusual delay. Then-Gov. Tim Kaine signed the budget on May 9 -- 52 days before it went into effect.
McAuliffe said Cuccinelli "tried to shut down" state government in order to defund Planned Parenthood.
Cuccinelli in 2008 offered a budget amendment that would have ended funding for Planned Parenthood, and debate over the measure tied up the Senate for about four hours. McAuliffe offers no credible evidence that Cuccinelli’s intent was to force state government to close. The Senate, later that same day, approved a budget bill. The final version of the state budget was signed by the governor more than seven weeks before it took effect.
McAuliffe has invented a crisis to blame on Cuccinelli. We rate his statement Pants on Fire.
Terry McAuliffe, Fairfax Chamber of Commerce/NBC4 Gubernatorial Debate, statement at about 35:50, Sept. 25, 2013.
The Virginian-Pilot, "Debate upends routine vote on budget," Feb. 28, 2008.
Associated Press, "Partisan Senate feud almost derails state budget," Feb. 28, 2008.
The Virginian-Pilot, letter from Ken Cuccinelli, "For Planned Parenthood, it’s all about abortion," March 7, 2008.
Legislative Information System, 2008 session, Senate floor amendments to HB 30, accessed Sept. 30, 2013.
LIS, 2008 budget bill actions, accessed Sept. 30, 2013.
The Family Foundation, Blog entry: "Gala Recap: A Rousing Success," Nov. 22, 2008.
The Washington Post, "If elected, McAuliffe faces showdown with Va. House Republicans over Obamacare," Sept. 14, 2013.
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