Va. assembly session ends without budget

McDonnell sees mixed results

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Indeed, the GOP pushed a slew of conservative bills — one that would repeal a mandate that girls receive a vaccination against a virus known to cause cervical cancer, another that would require some welfare recipients to undergo drug testing, and other abortion-related measures that would ban most abortions after 20 weeks and deny funding for poor women to have abortions if their child would be born with a severe abnormality.

The legislature also passed bills that will end the state’s ban on purchasing more than one handgun per month, tighten voter identification laws that were denounced by Democrats in a state still stinging from the legacy of the Jim Crow South, and allow adoption agencies to deny placements if they conflict with their religious or moral convictions, including their beliefs about sexual orientation.

Perception is reality

Though much of the divisive social legislation was defeated, often with the help of moderate Republicans, perception is reality in politics.

“Obviously, McDonnell wanted to get his agenda through, but in the end, Republican control of the Senate has probably hurt him politically,” said Kyle Kondik, a political analyst with the University of Virginia Center for Politics.

One example was Republican Delegate Robert G. Marshall’s failed “personhood” bill that would define life as beginning at conception and assign the same rights and privileges to embryos as human beings. The bill passed the House and was shelved in the Senate with the support of some Republicans — but only after it drew national headlines and was lampooned on “Saturday Night Live.”

Mr. McDonnell said he sometimes felt a handful of bills received an inordinate focus.

“The message of the session was government reform, VRS reform, jobs, K-12 and higher-ed reform, veterans, energy, and those kinds of things,” he said. “People ought to know about what we’re doing up here in its entirety. Sure, we got into passionate debates on issues of life and family and marriage and religious freedom — it happens every year. But I think they did a very good job on key issues — the biggest disappointment, of course, the budget.”

But as the 2012 presidential campaign gears up — Mr. McDonnell has been frequently mentioned as a potential ticket mate — the images of police in riot gear arresting demonstrators protesting anti-abortion legislation on the steps of the state Capitol will likely linger long after an inside-baseball squabble over the budget is resolved, given the national attention that has been devoted to women’s health issues in recent months.

“Republicans have taken a beating on the national level,” Mr. Kondik said. “When you think about it that way, it might harm McDonnell’s chances of being selected.”

He said it was “very clear” that Democrats are going to want to play up questions about contraception.

“Whether it’s fair or not is beside the point,” he said.

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