Howell Does Good

Long time readers will know that Speaker Bill Howell, who was recently re-elected to his position as Speaker of the House (or is at least the Republican pick, though the current majority more or less secures his choice by the Caucus), is not exactly one of my favorites. I’m not going to back away from my position on the smoking ban coming into effect at the beginning of next month, though I will admit that it didn’t really hurt the ticket’s pro-business platform (though McDonnell himself opposed it, and frankly I can’t think of a single race where this was a deal breaker).

However, I do give kudos where kudos is due. Howell played very smart politics over the last few years by keeping costs down in the House and by allowing recorded subcommittee votes. That particular plank managed to appease both the media and liberal types along with conservatives for whom transparency has become a hot new issue. Howell doubled down on this strategy today by not walking away from proportional representation. From the Washington Post VA Politics blog:

House Speaker Bill Howell plans to honor current rules of proportional representation as he reorganizes House committees in the wake of the Nov. 3 election results. That means Howell will add one Republican to each committee, in line with the GOP caucus’ growth from 55 to 61 members. He will not be adding two Republicans, as has been widely rumored, according to Howell chief of staff Paul Nardo

Kudos to the speaker. Frankly, not much was to be gained here. Barring a defection from the Democratic caucus to the McDonnell administration (and possibly two, if Republicans don’t hold the 37th Senate district seat vacated by AG-elect Ken Cuccinelli), we aren’t going to control the Senate any time soon. While tempting, adding two GOPers wouldn’t do much and only aid any narrative of Republican overreach. Governor-elect McDonnell is in a good position to get many of his iniatives through already. No reason to queer the deal by angering and giving the Democrats good reason to fight tooth and nail and to give the media the possibility of comparison’s to Obama’s overreach in his first year.

So kudos to Speaker Howell and the Republican Caucus. But remember: we’re still watching.

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