If you've been following this sordid affair, then you know that the new map was passed on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, when an African-American senator and civil rights leader, Henry Marsh, was in Washington, DC to attend Barack Obama's second inauguration. That allowed the GOP to sneak their legislation through on a 20-19 vote in the evenly divided body, a move that a number of Republicans decried, including Gov. Bob McDonnell. Indeed, McDonnell repeatedly made clear his distaste for the manner in which the measure passed, and numerous reports over the past several weeks made it sound like Republican leaders outside the Senate wanted this thing to die.
The only question was how: Would it make it through the House, where the GOP dominates by a wide majority, only to be vetoed by McDonnell? Or would the House itself do the plan in? In the end, Republicans opted for the latter, a decidedly lower-profile move, using procedural means to send the map to a watery grave. (In practical terms, House Speaker William Howell ruled that the Senate, which had unexpectedly amended an entirely different bill and grafted its new map into the shell of that gutted piece of legislation, had added material that was "not germane" to the original bill.)
So Democrats can definitely breathe a sigh of relief, though don't imagine for a moment that the Virginia GOP has suddenly reformed itself. But there's also something we can do here: This fall, the lieutenant governor's seat will be open, and Democrats can win it back. That means we'd earn the tiebreaking vote in the Senate. If we can reclaim the governor's mansion as well (and we have a strong shot at that), we'll be able to keep a lid on the GOP's worst excesses. And if the past few weeks have taught us anything, it's that we damn well need to, because next time, don't expect Republicans in the Old Dominion to show any restraint.