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A General Assembly rejection of a cabinet pick isn't without precedent

Andrew Wheeler_testifies
Steve Helber
Former EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler, who has been nominated by Gov. Youngkin to be the Secretary of Natural and Historic Resources, testifies before the Senate Agriculture, Conservation and Natural Resources at the Capitol Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022, in Richmond, Va.

Governor Glenn Youngkin's controversial pick for Cabinet secretary was rejected by lawmakers, although he'll be sticking around as an advisor.

Members of the General Assembly almost always approve Cabinet secretaries. In fact, there's been only one other example of lawmakers saying no to a Cabinet pick in the history of the Cabinet. That was back in 2006 when a Republican-led House rejected Governor Tim Kaine's pick for Secretary of the Commonwealth. Now a Democratically controlled Senate has rejected Governor Glenn Youngkin's pick for environmental secretary.

Quentin Kidd at Christopher Newport University says it shows a fraying of traditions.

"The General Assembly sort of gave a lot of deference to the governor. The General Assembly sort of stayed out of the way in some ways," Kidd explains. "And I think the Virginia Way has gone the way of history and one of the data points in that is these now two, in recent years, rejections of a gubernatorial Cabinet choice."

So there may have been only two in the history of the Cabinet, but more may be on the horizon.

"Expect more of these in the future," says Stephen Farnsworth at the University of Mary Washington.

"Governor Youngkin gets a lot more national media attention from fighting with the legislature than he ever would from getting along. And when Virginia governors can only serve one term, getting national attention can be an important next step."

Kaine's rejected Cabinet secretary stuck around and became a key part of his administration. Now Youngkin's rejected cabinet secretary is following suit, joining the administration as an advisor.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.