As Marshall pushes impeachment of Herring, passage unlikely
Marshall is targeting Herring for refusing to defend in court the commonwealth's constitutional ban on legal recognition for same-sex couples. He wants the House of Delegates to launch an inquiry into whether the attorney general should be impeached.
The Republican is also charging Herring with usurping the General Assembly by declaring that in-state tuition for illegal immigrants is legal.
State House Speaker Bill Howell (R) is among those refusing to join Marshall's cry for the legislature to oust Herring.
The major issue is that Herring sided with the plaintiffs in the case of Bostic vs. Schaefer, arguing that the state could not legally ban same-sex marriage. Marshall had been the author of the state's constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and all legal recognition for same-sex couples.
Howell initially criticized Herring for not defending the amendment in court earlier this year.
However, a separate statement from Howell's office contradicted Marshall point of view.
"The Speaker has expressed his concerns regarding the Attorney General's actions, but does not believe impeachment is an appropriate or practical recourse at the moment," stated the single-sentence release from Howell's office.
Prospects for Marshall's impeachment resolutions even making it to the state Senate are low, according to state Sen. George Barker (D-39th), who represents several precincts of Prince William County along the Occoquan River.
"I don't think it gets out of the House," said Barker, who served with Herring in the state Senate from 2008 until the Democrat's inauguration as attorney general this past January.
Barker's prognostication is more likely to come true than not given that Howell has not thrown his support behind the effort.
Marshall ripped Howell repeatedly during a phone interview, saying that his inaction would allow Herring and Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) to push their agendas while bypassing the GOP-controlled House.
McAuliffe is currently in a standoff with the House of Delegates over funding for a program similar to Medicaid designed to provide health insurance to more than 300,000 Virginia residents.
"When legislators don't stand up to executive excesses, they get more executive excesses," said Marshall, later adding that Democrats "see weakness in Republican leadership and they're taking advantage of it."
Marshall previously said it would be "pansy day" in the legislature if the Republicans did not pursue the impeachment inquiry.
On Thursday, Marshall explained his definition of "pansy" meant "a weak man."
"He is responding to his fears, I guess liberals in the media," said Marshall about Howell.
When asked to respond to Marshall's quotes about the speaker, Howell spokesperson Matt Moran replied, "We're going to decline to comment on that."
Moran also mentioned that "no decision on committee referrals has been made" for the resolutions.
Even if the resolutions pass the House, they would still require a two-thirds vote of the Democratic-led Senate in order to convict Herring.
Given that there are 20 Democrats and 20 Republicans in the upper chamber, along with Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam (D), who presides over the Senate, and that a majority of elected Democrats support same-sex marriage, the chances of Marshall winning impeachment are negligible.
That's a non-issue to Marshall.
He cited a 1962 speech at West Point by former Gen. Douglas MacArthur regarding the need to put "duty," "honor" and "country" ahead of "victory."
"He said duty first. Victory may come later or it may never come, but duty first. Otherwise, the catchwords would be victory, applause and party. You need to do your duty first, then you can figure out if you could win," said Marshall.
Herring previously said he believed Virginia's ban on same-sex marriage runs contrary to the equal protection clause within the Bill of Rights of the U.S. Constitution.
It's the same stance Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane (D) took in 2013 when that state's ban was challenged in court.
"That's collateral damage. That's not precedent," said Marshall about Kane's refusal.
Last week, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett (R) declined to appeal a court ruling invaliding Pennsylvania's ban on same-sex marriage, essentially legalizing it in that commonwealth.
To Marshall, censuring Herring for his actions would not be a severe enough punishment.
In a press release, the 22-year delegate stated Herring "usurped legislative authority to confer tuition benefits upon classes of persons he favors without approval of the General Assembly, and further, he has erroneously directed the State Council of Higher Education to comply with his advice rather than the laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia."
Even though Marshall's impeachment resolutions will likely die in the General Assembly, he said simply censuring Herring would be inadequate.
"Would you censure a bank robber or would you say you have to give the money back and you'll have to serve jail time or some penalty," asked Marshall. "Right now, there's no penalty for Mark Herring doing this and now there's none for McAuliffe."
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