There’s always some tension between the Virginia House of Delegates and the Senate.
But tensions are a little higher this year as lawmakers struggle to find “the Virginia Way.”
Frustration made a few appearances on the Senate floor Wednesday. Sen. Bryce Reeves, R-Spotsylvania, called out the House for not voting on certain Senate bills in committee, leaving them to die.
Adding to the usual tension between chambers this year is the wide discrepancy between the House and Senate budgets. The House budget accepts an estimated $371 million in savings by expanding Medicaid under the federal Affordable Care Act. The Senate’s does not.
Sen. Emmett Hanger, R-Augusta, co-chairman of the Finance Committee, said it’s possible the General Assembly might not reach an agreement on a new two-year budget by Saturday, when the 60-day session is scheduled to adjourn.
It was the first public acknowledgment that lawmakers might have to either extend the session or return later to finish the budget.
Hanger said negotiations would continue late into the evenings, if needed, and that he remained optimistic.
Reeves, the rugged former police officer and Army Ranger who lost the GOP primary for lieutenant governor last year, referred to “injustice” and “tyranny” in a floor speech decrying how the House refused to vote on or pass some Senate bills.
Among them was a bill from Reeves that would have authorized a state authority to assist in financing projects that improve military installations.
The bill passed the Senate but was left in the House Appropriations Committee without a vote.
In the House of Delegates, Republicans have avoided passing bills that have a cost component if there isn’t money budgeted for what the bill does.
Reeves said the Senate makes every effort to give every bill a committee hearing.
With Sen. Bill Stanley, R-Franklin County, acting as a hype man, Reeves let loose.
“Are we an equal body?” Reeves asked.
“Yes,” Stanley replied as other senators listened.
“I am done listening to the House tell me how great they are. ... If we can’t have transparency between the two bodies, then why are we here? Why am I away from my family?” Reeves said.
“Why?” echoed Stanley.
Other senators then murmured, “Why?”
“I’ll tell you why,” Reeves said.
“Because we got elected to do a job in this chamber to get bills passed. And just because it’s not in their budget, Mr. President, doesn’t mean it’s not a good bill.”
Reeves asked leadership of both parties to reach out to House leaders “and hammer something out where these cats will start playing fair with us.”
He had a warning for his House colleagues:
“As chairman of a committee, I’m having some thoughts about what I need to do next year with that committee and whether or not we’re going to hear some bills.”
The speech ended with a few exclamations of “hear, hear,” and at least one senator thumping his desk.
House Republicans, through a spokesman, declined to respond.