The Virginia Senate voted Wednesday to censure Sen. Amanda Chase, R-Chesterfield, over a long pattern of behavior that includes referring to the insurrectionists who attacked the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 as “patriots” and making insulting comments toward the Virginia Capitol Police and the clerk of the Senate.
The censure resolution – the second in modern Virginia history – was entered by Sen. John Bell, D-Loudoun, and received support from Republicans. It passed, 24 to 9, after lengthy debate.
“The need to protect the honor of this body compelled me to proceed,” Bell said.
In long, sometimes angry remarks before the vote, Chase, who is seeking the GOP nomination for governor, accused fellow senators of trying to humiliate her and threatened legal action.
But some GOP colleagues said they were compelled to act. Senate Minority Leader Thomas Norment, R-James City, one of three Republicans to vote for censure, said Chase had demonstrated “hypocrisy” and a lack of integrity. Sen. Jill Holtzman Vogel, R-Fauquier, who also voted for the measure, said Chase’s continued association with the Republican Party was “embarrassing.”
The debate over censuring Chase has preoccupied the Senate for more than a week, threatening to overshadow weighty issues of the pandemic and controversial initiatives to end the death penalty and legalize marijuana. Chase’s aggressively provocative politics – she has described herself as a version of former president Donald Trump “in heels” – has rankled fellow Republicans in this increasingly blue state.
Chase suggested after the Capitol riot that left-wing “antifa or BLM agents of destruction” were to blame – an assertion that contradicts the evidence related to the loosely grouped anti-fascist ideology and the Black Lives Matter movement. She spoke to the crowd of Trump supporters on Jan. 6, but left before they went to the Capitol and crashed through security lines.
The censure resolution also noted that Chase accused Democrats of “treason” for their role in a “stolen” presidential election; dismissed the seriousness of the coronavirus pandemic; used social media to launch attacks on members of both major political parties that allegedly led to threats from the public; and said Sen. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, who is also running for governor, could not represent all Virginians because she helps lead the Black Caucus.
Those actions “represent to me a bit of a call for help, and I hope that she gets that help,” said Sen. Stephen Newman, R-Bedford.
He and Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Rockingham – who said Chase has “demonstrated an open and omnidirectional hostility to the occupants of this room” – raised procedural concerns about the censure resolution. Rather than oppose it, though, they and four other Republicans simply did not vote, to make clear that they disapproved of Chase’s behavior.
Democratic Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, who presides over the Senate, agreed with those lawmakers that the censure resolution should have been supported by a committee investigation of each allegation. He at one point ruled that the resolution was out of order, but Majority Leader Richard Saslaw, D-Fairfax, immediately called for a vote that overruled Fairfax’s finding. Fairfax also is running for governor.
Bell had offered last week to withdraw the censure resolution if Chase would apologize for her statements and actions. But she only apologized for her “passion” for the Constitution.
On Wednesday, Chase struck back at her colleagues, condemning those who had participated in social justice protests last summer. “If it weren’t for double standards there would be no standards at all in this body,” she thundered.
She told Norment, her party’s most senior senator, that “your behavior, sir, does not fit that of a sitting senator.”
At the urging of other lawmakers, Chase did, finally, denounce any white supremacists who might have had a role in the attack on the Capitol. And she said she was “sorry that I’ve hurt a lot of your feelings.”
But it was not enough to head off the vote.
Last week, the Senate stripped Chase of her lone committee assignment. She was removed from three other committee posts last year after her decision, in late 2019, to quit the Senate Republican Caucus to protest the reelection of caucus leaders who had criticized her after a string of controversies, including cursing at a Capitol Police officer over a parking spot.