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NH-Sen & MN-Sen: Bipartisanship

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[Originally posted at my blog Senate Guru.]

Democratic Governor John Lynch has released a statement making clear that he will appoint a Republican rather than a Democrat to fill the vacancy created should Democratic President Barack Obama name Republican Senator Judd Gregg to become Commerce Secretary:

"I have had conversations with Senator Gregg, the White House and U.S. Senate leadership. Senator Gregg has said he would not resign his seat in the U.S. Senate if it changed the balance in the Senate. Based on my discussions, it is clear the White House and Senate leadership understand this as well.

"It is important that President Obama be able to select the advisors he feels are necessary to help him address the challenges facing our nation.

"If President Obama does nominate Senator Gregg to serve as Commerce Secretary, I will name a replacement who will put the people of New Hampshire first and represent New Hampshire effectively in the U.S. Senate."

That's right. Not only is our Democratic President willing to put another Republican in his Cabinet (making three, along with Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Defense Secretary Robert Gates -- I recall hearing today, but I have not confirmed, that three members of the opposing Party in the Cabinet at the same time is the most since FDR's first term!), but the Democratic Governor is willing to meet the demand of the Republican Senator that he be succeeded by a Republican, despite the fact that the President, the Governor, and the clear political trend in New Hampshire is Democratic.

Democrats are bending over backwards to embody the spirit of bipartisanship to which Republicans in the Senate only exploit and pay lip-service. Why do I say this, and what does this have to do with MN-Sen (though you've probably guessed by now)?

Minnesota only has one seated U.S. Senator, Amy Klobuchar. Norm Coleman's term expired last month, and Senator-elect Al Franken's seating is held up by Coleman's frivolous, foot-dragging, evidence-free lawsuit, which has featured apparently-doctored evidence by Coleman as well as notoriously dud witnesses and lies regarding cherry-picked voters.

There is state law in Minnesota that the Governor and Secretary of State cannot sign an election certificate if there is an election contest underway. Fine. Coleman has blocked Senator-elect Franken's election certification. Whoopie for him.

Still, no one debates that the ultimate arbiter for the Senate race, as dictated by Section 5 of Article I of the U.S. Constitution, is the U.S. Senate (and that federal Constitutional law trumps state policy). Further, there is precedent -- very recent precedent, at that -- of provisionally seating an uncertified-but-clearly-victorious Senate candidate while an election challenge was underway: Senator Mary Landrieu's first Senate victory in 1996, a provisional seating supported by Republicans (emphasis added by me):

There is, moreover, historical precedent for seating Franken on a temporary basis. In 1996, Mary Landrieu won the Louisiana Senate seat in a hotly contested race. But her opponent, State Representative Woody Jenkins, alleged that massive election fraud had contributed to his defeat. The Republican-controlled U.S. Senate agreed to look into the charges but allowed Landrieu to serve in the interim, pending investigation. The Rules Committee ultimately discovered that Jenkins had coached and paid witnesses to testify, thus discrediting his complaints of corruption and securing Landrieu's place in the Senate.

That was then. This is now:

Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl has warned Democrats not to try to seat Al Franken any time soon, and he predicts the legal process will take at least a month to unfold, meaning the Senate may be stuck with 99 members well into February.

In an unusual move, Kyl went to the Senate floor this morning to lay out all the reasons why the Minnesota Senate election remains unresolved, and he listed Sen. Norm Coleman's arguments before the Minnesota courts. Coleman's election lawsuit contends there are newly discovered ballots, missing ballots, wrongly rejected absentee ballots and double counting of votes.

An election was held. A manual recount was undertaken. Contested ballots were reviewed one-by-one by an independent panel. Independent local election officials then reviewed absentee ballots to determine which were properly rejected and which should be counted. After every possible review was conducted, Al Franken led by 225 votes and the results were certified by the independent Canvassing Board (not to be confused with an election certificate). Al Franken won, and Norm Coleman has been unable to provide any hard evidence at all that confirms any wrongdoing in the election or any misconduct or miscounting that would move the result substantively in his favor. Norm Coleman lost, notwithstanding Jon Kyl's parroting of Coleman's political talking points on the Senate floor. But he is contesting. Fine. He is availing himself of the legal system (that his Party would seek to curtail others' access to through so-called "tort reform," but that's another story).

In desperately clinging to the myth that votes were widely double-counted, the Coleman camp repeats the concept "one man, one vote." In the U.S. Senate, every state gets two Senators, two votes. However, in the meantime, Minnesota only has one Senator. Because of Norm Coleman's frivolous lawsuit and the Senate GOP's lack of that bipartisan spirit that they trumpet when it serves their ends, Minnesotans have only half of the representation and half of the avenues to constituent service in the U.S. Senate that every other citizen of the other 49 U.S. states has.

The U.S. Constitution is on Al Franken's side. Republican-supported Senate precedent is on Al Franken's side. And bipartisanship is on Al Franken's side. Just as our Democratic President has seen fit to name a Republican Senator to serve in his Cabinet, and New Hampshire's Democratic Governor has seen fit to honor the demand of the Republican Senator that he be succeeded by a Republican, it only seems fitting that Republican Senators ought to allow the (Constitutionally-supported and precedent-supported) provisional seating of Senator-elect Al Franken while Norm Coleman's frivolous lawsuit runs its course so that Minnesotans can enjoy full representation in the U.S. Senate once again. It's good for Minnesota. It's good for bipartisanship.

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