Collegial Buddies in the Senate Pull a Fast One
Sometimes we are so busy looking at the forest we don't see the trees. It is beginning to look like that is what happened last week in the Senate Judiciary Committee. After some contentious remarks and posturing during the preceding weeks and a very anti-climactic two days of hearings on the confirmation of Eric Holder as Attorney General, Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) announced that Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) had requested that the vote be delayed by a week and that under the rules of the committee he was obliged to grant the delay. So rather than going to a vote of the committee on Wednesday, January 21 the vote was postponed to Wednesday, January 28. What wasn't mentioned was the situation regarding the makeup of the committee.
With the wrangling over "found" votes and more votes than voters in Minnesota, the contentious appointment of Roland Burris to fill the seat vacated by Barack Obama, questions about the appointment in New York to replace Hillary Clinton, and a few other issues, the Senate leadership was slow about their bi-annual reorganization and committee assignments. Most of the new assignments were not made official until Wednesday evening, January 21.
That means that on Wednesday, when the vote was supposed to have taken place, the makeup of the Senate Judiciary Committee was still as it had been in the 110th Congress. With 10 Democrats and 9 Republicans – but wait – there's more to that story. Among the 10 Democrats were Joe Biden and Ted Kennedy. Biden officially resigned from the Senate on January 15. Kennedy has been hospitalized since his collapse at an inauguration party on January 20. So on January 21 when the Judiciary Committee was scheduled to vote on whether to recommend confirmation of Eric Holder there were only 8 Democrats available to vote on the committee and 9 Republicans. That's 8 "F" rated Democrats versus 9 "A" rated Republicans to decide whether an anti-gun, anti-Second Amendment political lackey should be the guardian of the Constitution and the nation's top cop.
Rather than press the advantage, the "A" rated majority instead asked for a delay of a week during which one of their members was removed from the committee and three additional "F" rated Democrats were added.
Now I'm as fair-minded as the next guy and I understand that there are professional courtesies to be observed in a body such as the US Senate – though the Democrats have not extended much in the way of courtesy over the past couple of years – but if the Democrats wanted more time so they could stack the committee, they should have admitted that fact and requested the delay themselves rather than having the Republicans request the delay for them and pretend they were delaying to be tough.
I might be missing something – the rules and traditions of the Senate are a complex mess about which I am nowhere near an expert – but this looks to me like the good old boys maneuvering in an effort to keep the rubes back home – that's you and me – from realizing that it's all just a big game.