One top Virginia Democrat wants an “inquiry” into the sudden resignation of Democratic state Sen. Phillip Puckett, who sent a ripple effect through Virginia’s state government by stepping down Monday.
By stepping down, Puckett lets the GOP take control of the Virginia Senate, and potentially block an expansion of Medicaid.
“It’s an evolving story, but from everything we know so far, it is very inappropriate under the circumstances,” Del. David Toscano, the Minority Leader of the House of Delegates, told Business Insider on Monday.
“It’s not a very transparent way to have a resignation like this occur.”
News of Puckett’s resignation leaked Sunday night. His resignation paved the way for him to be considered for a job with the state tobacco commission and for his daughter to be confirmed to a state judgeship. After an uproar from state Democrats that produced national headlines, Puckett decided to withdraw his name from consideration for the job as deputy director of the tobacco commission.
That shouldn’t stop any investigation into the circumstances leading to Puckett’s resignation, Toscano said Monday. He said Puckett and Republicans need to be forthcoming on what, if any, discussions took place between the two parties.
“It looks as if some deal was at least in the works for him resigning,” Toscano said. “We need to be clear on what Sen. Puckett is doing.”
Puckett’s resignation hands Republicans a temporary 20-19 majority in the state Senate at a crucial time when Republicans and Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe are in standoff over including in the state budget an expansion of the federal Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act. The temporary majority in the Senate is likely to produce a more permanent majority, too, for Republicans — Puckett hails from a district that gave two-thirds of its support to 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
State Republicans already hold a large majority in the House of Delegates, meaning both sides could be dug in further ahead of a possible July 1 shutdown. Toscano said Puckett’s resignation will “make it more difficult” to expand Medicaid.
“I’m a lawyer, and I choose my words very carefully,” Toscano said. “I’m not prepared to use that word. But there needs to be some kind of inquiry. … It’s baffling for so many people.”
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