Lawyers for Sen. Donald McEachin, D-Henrico, quietly dropped the Senate Democratic Caucus chairman's lawsuit challenging Senate President and Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling's ability to cast a tie-breaking vote on organizational matters in the chamber.
McEachin filed the lawsuit in December after November's election left both parties with 20 seats in the Senate and Republican leaders, along with Bolling, made clear they intended to use the lieutenant governor's tie-breaker to take control of the chamber.
McEachin had sought a temporary injunction against Bolling casting a vote, but the judge in the case said that was premature.
McEachin retained the right to refile the suit, but said at this point it was a "distraction."
"I thought it best to keep the focus on the budget and on the divisive social agenda the Republican have advanced," McEachin said Monday. "I thought this would be a distraction to that."
Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli said Friday he believes his office's motion to dismiss the suit would have ultimately been successful, and he will refile that motion if McEachin brings back the legal challenge.
"From the beginning of this case, it has been clear that the lieutenant governor has the right to vote on senate organization and break other ties, unless the Constitution of Virginia limits the vote to members elected to the senate," Cuccinelli said. "That will still be true if another suit is filed, and therefore, we will seek dismissal of any new suits."
Bolling said Friday he is pleased that McEachin decided to drop the law suit.
"I am pleased to hear Senator McEachin has decided to non-suit this case," Bolling said. "We felt the case was without merit and we were encouraged by the court's earlier rulings that seemed to uphold our position. Hopefully, Senator McEachin's decision is an indication that we can move beyond issues such as this and focus on getting the people's business done in the final days of the legislative session. Priority number one should be the adoption of a state budget to make certain that we can continue to fund the core responsibilities of state government and protect the interests of the people we serve. I look forward to working with Republicans and Democrats to do everything we can to accomplish this goal on a timely basis."
On Thursday Senate Democrats successfully stopped passage of the chamber's version of the state budget - a policy area that Bolling can not cast tie-breakers on. Republicans contend that action by the rival party was due to "bruised egos" over the organization of the Senate.
Senate Democrats say that's not the case. They say their problems are substantive - having to do with underfunding education and the social safety net.