Who can account for the missing nineteen legislators?
Further to the 26 delegates who didn’t vote and the 10 delegates who abstained from voting for Tracy Thorne-Begland’s judicial nomination, I want to highlight Del. Jennifer McClellan’s comments explaining the distinction:
For the record, 4 delegates were not present at all on Monday due to “pressing personal business” (which is how excused absences are recorded in the House Journal): The Speaker, Bob Brink, David Englin, and Margaret Ransone. I know Brink and Englin would have voted yes, and would have been there if they could.
Several members had already left by the time of the vote (which was around 1:15 am). I don’t recall all of them, but I know Habeeb, Tyler, Joannou, had already left before we started considering judges.
The tradition/protocol in the General Assembly is not to vote No on a judge. If you can’t support them, you don’t vote. It is rare to vote No. It is even rarer to abstain. House Rule 69 says it all:
Rule 69. Upon a division of the House on any question, a member who is present and fails to vote shall on the demand of any member be counted on the negative of the question and when the yeas and nays are taken shall, in addition, be entered on the Journal as present and not voting. However, no member who has an immediate and personal interest in the result of the question shall either vote or be counted upon it.
Had the hour not been so late, someone might have had the presence of mind to demand that those in their seats and not voting be counted as voting no. But I think it is safe to say that was their intention.
I really wonder what “immediate and personal interest” in Tracy’s appointment the 10 members who abstained had. I am fairly certain none of them are related to him.
So of the 26 delegates who did not vote, we know that 7 (Habeeb, Tyler, Joannou, Brink, Englin, Ransone, and Howell) were not present. That leaves 19 unexplained. (C. Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah), Christopher T. Head (R-Roanoke), Joseph P. Johnson Jr. (D-Washington County), S. Chris Jones (R-Suffolk), Joe T. May (R-Loudoun), Jackson H. Miller (R-Manassas), J. Randall “Randy” Minchew (R-Leesburg), Richard L. Morris (R-Isle of Wight), John M. O’Bannon III (R-Henrico), Robert D. Orrock Sr. (R-Caroline), Christopher K. Peace (R-Hanover), Kenneth R. Plum (D-Fairfax), Harry R. Purkey (R-Virginia Beach), Robert Tata (R-Virginia Beach), Roslyn C. Tyler (D-Sussex), Onzlee Ware (D-Roanoke), R. Lee Ware Jr. (R-Powhatan), Michael J. Webert (R-Fauquier), Thomas C. Wright Jr. (R-Lunenburg), and David E. Yancey (R-Newport News).) Were they actually absent, or did they just sit on their hands when it came time to vote?
Just at a glance, I have to note the extraordinary coincidence that of these nineteen legislators, there are only three Democrats. No Democrats voted against Tracy. With a random distribution of absenteeism, we’d expect six Republicans to those three Democrats. Instead, we see Republicans overrepresented by 160%. The simplest explanation for this is that a bunch of these Republicans were sitting on their hands.
This isn’t just important in the abstract, but also because it goes to my assertion that those who failed to vote could have stopped the torpedoing of Tracy’s nomination, but failed to do so. As 51 votes are required for a nomination, he was actually 20 short, so the 10 abstentions wouldn’t have made the difference. Nineteen did not vote at all, but may have actually been there.
Did you see any of these nineteen on the video during the debate early yesterday morning? Let’s tally them up. Let’s find out who was absent, and who really knew that what they were doing was wrong, but didn’t want their position to show up on their voting record.