After the Supreme Court struck down Governor McAuliffe’s unconstitutional executive orders restoring the political rights of 206,000 convicted felons, 43,000 of which were violent felons, the governor declared he would proceed with more mass restorations despite the court’s order. Last week, he purported to restore the political rights of 13,000 convicted felons and promised to restore the rights of the approximately 200,000 additional felons who satisfy the criteria of his illegal April 22 executive order.
After a thorough legal review of his most recent actions, it is clear to us in the General Assembly that the governor is, once again, violating the Supreme Court’s decision. So today, we filed a new contempt motion, requesting “an order to show cause” requiring the governor to prove why he should not be held in contempt of court.
Governor McAuliffe has, once again, illegally suspended the Constitution of Virginia. There is no practical difference between his latest action and his first set of illegal executive orders. He has replaced the Constitution’s general rule on dealing with felons with a categorical exception of his own creation, something the Supreme Court plainly declared unconstitutional.
Unbelievably, the governor openly admits he wants to evade the Supreme Court’s order, saying he “cannot accept” the Court’s ruling. He called the Court’s ruling “political”, accused the justices of being “scared” of the General Assembly, and compared the Supreme Court to “segregationist judges” of the 20th century. Even the Richmond Times Dispatch said he was wrong to say this of the Court.
This is not a decision we took lightly. We deeply respect the Supreme Court and its role as a co-equal branch of government. However, the seriousness of Governor McAuliffe’s flagrant and repeated violations of the Constitution requires us to take action. He is acting illegally and we have an obligation to oppose the excesses of executive power; we cannot stand idly by and we won’t. We are committed to holding the governor accountable to the constitution and the rule of law.
Unlike Congress, your Republican majority in the General Assembly will not stand by and let the Chief Executive in Virginia rule by fiat. He is not a king. We will hold him accountable and I am very optimistic the Supreme Court will once again rule in our favor.