Virginia House Speaker William Howell (R-Stafford) killed a controversial redistricting plan Wednesday that the state's Senate Republicans passed on the day President Barack Obama was inaugurated, capitalizing on the absence of a Democratic state senator.
"House Bill 259 has been modified to stray dramatically, in my opinion, from the original legislative proposal," Howell said Wednesday.
The Washington Post reports that Howell used a procedural move to kill the map that Republicans passed 20-19 on Jan. 21, the date of Obama's second inauguration and the federal holiday honoring Martin Luther King, Jr.
State Sen. Henry Marsh III, a Democrat and civil rights veteran, attended the inauguration and was absent for the vote. He said afterward that the GOP's move to take advantage of his absence to pass the bill was "shameful."
The Huffington Post's Ryan J. Reilly reported on the Republican plan:
Republicans, like the redistricting bill's sponsor, Sen. John Watkins, say the new plan's purpose is to add an additional majority-black Senate district. Democrats counter the changes would pack African Americans into certain districts so that the surrounding districts would become more Republican.
Howell killed the Senate map because it differed too much from the original House bill that redrew district lines, according to the Post. "This vast rewrite of Senate districts goes well beyond the usual legislative electoral precinct tweaks that are customary in each redistricting cycle," he said.
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