Resignation flips Virginia Senate power to GOP

VIRGINIA (WUSA9) -- A budget deal may be in the works in Virginia following today's surprise resignation of a Democratic State Senator.

It flipped power to Republicans who want to pass a budget without expanding Medicaid.

"I'm totally shocked. Never saw that coming," said Delegate Scott Surovell ( D- 44).

Virginia Democrats are stunned over their sudden reversal of power in the State Senate with the surprise resignation of Democrat Phillip Puckett today.

Surovell said that the resignation throws control of the Senate to the other party at a critical time when the budget still needs to be written.

Democrats fought hard to win control of the Senate last November with Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam serving as the tie-breaker.

Senator Chap Petersen from Fairfax said that Democrats in the Senate were finally able to control committees and get rid of "bad legislation" while holding the majority. Now, it's gone. Petersen said Puckett is a friend of his and he stopped short of calling him a traitor, saying he's waiting to hear an explanation for why he resigned.

It's the timing of Puckett's resignation that sparked the uproar. The Tobacco Commission, chaired by Republican Terry Kilgore, is meeting this week.

Some Democrats alleged Republicans offered Puckett a job on the state-run Tobacco Commission, in exchange for his resignation.

Amid the Controversy, Puckett's close friends have told reporters that he has decided not to take the job.

Still, his resignation may reverse the Senate's support of its own medicaid expansion plan, a plan Governor McAuliffe has been pushing hard. But, with the House of Delegates opposing it, the budget impasse threatens a government shutdown.

Surovell says he is most worried now about the fate of Medicaid expansion and bringing healthcare to 400,000 low income people in Virginia using federal money.

"It's mind boggling to me," said Surovell.

"I could be the last one one earth and I'm not supporting it," said Senator Dick Black from Loudoun County. He says expanding Medicaid is the same as welfare expansion. He hopes to pass a budget without it.

He says Republicans have requested to reconvene this week to work on a budget deal. They'll pass it, send it to the Governor and "He'll have no choice. no one to blame," said Black.

Senator Puckett did not return WUSA9's phone calls today.


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