RICHMOND, Va. -- The Virginia Senate on Wednesday approved a measure rebuking one of its most far-right members for a “pattern of unacceptable conduct," including an allegation that she voiced support for those who participated in storming the U.S. Capitol.
On a vote of 24-9, the Democrat-controlled chamber advanced a resolution censuring Amanda Chase, a senator from suburban Richmond who is seeking the GOP nomination for governor.
The vote followed a long debate that featured scathing rebukes from Chase's colleagues on both sides of the political aisle. She launched into a series of personal and professional attacks on some of her fellow senators, noting that some of them have had their own behavioral and legal troubles in the past. She also threatened to file a lawsuit if they voted in favor of the censure.
“You have the audacity to stand on the floor of this Senate and condemn me? How dare you!” she said, her voice rising. “Don’t you think the timing of today's censure is lost on me when two other Republican candidates announced that they are running for governor yesterday and today."
Sen. John Bell, a Democrat who sponsored the resolution, said Chase's behavior had put “the honor of our institution at risk.”
“The question before us today is, where is our line of behavior drawn and what will we tolerate?” Bell said.
Bell previously said he had private meetings with Chase in which they agreed he would drop the resolution if she publicly apologized and gave an unconditional condemnation of the violent riot at the Capitol by supporters of then-President Donald Trump. But Bell said the rambling speech Chase gave on Friday did not live up to that agreement.
In that speech, Chase declared she was “completely horrified” by the Jan. 6 insurrection and condemned the violence at the Capitol. But she also told fellow lawmakers that none of them was perfect.
In previous remarks on the floor, Chase had defended those who stormed the Capitol, including Ashli Babbitt, a woman who was shot by U.S. Capitol Police.
“These were not rioters and looters, these were patriots who love their country and do not want to see our great republic turned into a socialist country,” she said.
Chase, an ardent supporter of Trump, has previously called for martial law to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. She repeated Trump's baseless claims of election fraud, and lost access to her Facebook account after falsely blaming leftist activists for the Capitol insurrection.
Bell scaled back his resolution, which initially charged Chase with "fomenting insurrection against the United States,” or helping to incite the attack on the Capitol.
The new version alleges that Chase “has exhibited conduct unbecoming of a Senator during her terms in office by displaying a disregard for civility in discourse with colleagues, making false and misleading statements both in committee and on the Senate floor, and displaying a disregard for the significance of her duty to the citizens of the Commonwealth as an elected representative in the Senate of Virginia.”
Specifically, it cites a 2019 confrontation between Chase and a Virginia state Capitol Police officer, and alleges that Chase has “undermined the seriousness of the pandemic by stating, ‘I don’t do COVID.'" Chase has refused to wear a mask on the Senate floor, saying she has an unspecified medical condition that prevents her from doing so.
The censure is a public rebuke but would not limit Chase’s participation in the Senate. The upper chamber has already stripped her of her committee assignments.
The vote to censure Sen. Chase was bi-partisan.
“Senator Chase’s selfishness and constant need for media attention, with which the Senate Republican Caucus is keenly familiar, brought us to the situation in which the Senate found itself today," Republican senator leaders including
Tommy Norment (R-James City), Ryan McDougle (R-Hanover), and Mark Obenshain (R-Rockingham), wrote in a statement. "Senator Chase is not a member of the Virginia Senate Republican Caucus. She has not been a member of our caucus this entire term, having resigned her membership in November 2019. She is also not a member of the Chesterfield County Republican Committee, having been removed for actively working against a Republican nominee in the 2019 general election. While we remain hopeful today’s action discourages the frequent disruptions and distractions fomented by Senator Chase, the experience of our caucus suggests otherwise. We sincerely hope this is the exceptional circumstance where Senator Chase exceeds our expectations.”
“Since taking her oath in 2016, Senator Amanda Chase has over and over again engaged in behavior unbecoming of a Senator. She propagated conspiracy theories; lied to her constituents, followers, and colleagues; praised those who espoused racist and anti-Semitic sentiments; and on many other occasions brought disrepute upon herself," Majority Leader Sen. Dick Saslaw (D - Falls Church) said in a statement. "Senator Amanda Chase’s conduct had to be held accountable, and that’s what we did today.”