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EST's Journal
Posted by EST in General Discussion (1/22-2007 thru 12/14/2010)
Mon Apr 16th 2007, 04:41 AM
Time after time, in various threads, someone will post a breathless query, worrying about what would happen if Joe Lieberman should switch parties. When all the squawking settles, it becomes obvious that there is a paucity of information and understanding of senate rules.
I'd like to clear that up.

Ever since the direct election of senators was adopted nearly a century ago, consideration of what would happen if the majority in the senate should change mid-term had to be made. This has happened before and could well happen again, so certain rules were adopted to handle just such an occasion. This set of rules is set up early in the life of each new congress and it is called an "organizing resolution."

At the beginning of the 110th congress, the organizing resolution adopted by the senate spelled out that, no matter what happens to individual senators or their seats, the committee leaderships remain the same.

What does this mean? It means that Lieberman's switching parties - which he guaranteed his constituents he would never do ( "I've been a democrat for forty years and I will die a democrat," he said) - means exactly nothing will happen.
Nothing-nada-zip-zilch-nothing. Joe would continue voting mostly with the republicans, which he does right now, but the all important committee leadership positions, which are where the real power lies, would remain in democratic hands.

Had senator Johnson not survived his medical problems and a republican been appointed in his stead prior to the installation of the new congress, all would be different and the senate would now likely be in republican hands, but such was not the case. Now, since the senate organizing resolution was passed, it wouldn't make any difference even if a half dozen democrats became republicans-things would stay the same unless enough seats changed parties so that the democrats could not filibuster a new organizing resolution.

And that's it. From now until the end of the one hundred tenth congress-Jan, 2009-the only way this could change would be if a filibuster proof majority opted to pass a new organizing resolution that delivered the senate into the hands of the republicans. Oh, and by the way, an organizing resolution could be passed-why anyone would want to do it, I don't know-that hands the control of the senate to the republicans even if there were eighty democrats.

So, for now, everybody just relax and stop worrying. Until the 111th congress is sworn in, no amount of party switching is going to make any real difference unless enough democrats become republicans to enact a new organizing resolution over the wishes of the remaining democrats and their ability to filibuster. We can be assured it just ain't gonna happen.
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