- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 18, 2015

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Virginia Republicans are warning Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe not to reappoint his pick to the Virginia Supreme Court next month, but GOP leaders aren’t saying what they’ll do if the governor ignores them.

GOP House Speaker William J. Howell and Senate Majority Leader Thomas K. Norment Jr. issued a statement Tuesday sharply critical of the governor and suggesting that if he reappoints Justice Jane Marum Roush it could be “unlawful.”

But Howell and Norment declined to say what they would do if the governor does reappoint Roush, as he said Monday he plans to do.

The GOP warning comes a day after a bitter partisan battle at the Capitol that highlights the growing contempt between and GOP leaders and McAuliffe.

Democratic lawmakers foiled a GOP bid to unseat Roush, and then unexpectedly adjourned the state Senate from a special session McAuliffe had called to draw a new congressional map.

McAuliffe believes the early Senate adjournment gives him the authority to appoint justices because the General Assembly is not in session. He said there are similar past actions by the General Assembly that give him legal cover.

But Republicans said the legislature is still in session because the GOP-controlled House has not adjourned and say the state’s Constitution makes clear that the Senate’s actions are unlawful.

“Moving forward and consistent with the Constitution of Virginia, the General Assembly remains in session,” Howell and Norment said in their statement. “As such, any actions taken outside of those permitted by the Constitution of Virginia should be considered at best dubious and at worst unlawful.”

Republicans also criticized Democrats for failing to make any advances on redistricting in the brief special session, which was ordered by a federal panel of judges who ruled that lawmakers had illegally drawn the boundaries of the state’s 3rd Congressional District. The judges gave a Sept. 1 deadline to come up with a new map and now may impose a map of their own.

McAuliffe’s office brushed off Howell and Norment’s statement, saying it was clear that Republicans were never serious about drawing a new, legal map.

“It is embarrassing that Republicans, who shrugged off the opportunity to move this process forward, are now engaged in an existential argument about whether or not they are in session,” McAuliffe spokeswoman Christina Nuckols said.

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