Tags: Daschle's | Days | Iffy | Fame

Daschle's 17 Days of Iffy Fame

Wednesday, 29 November 2000 12:00 AM

As if there weren't already enough ifs in this unprecedented election year.

The Daschle "if" hinges on who wins the recount of votes for senator from that other Washington, the state of.

That outcome will be extremely important, for it could put Democrats in control of the Senate for more than two weeks before a new administration is sworn in and Republicans, regardless of who wins the presidency, take charge of the upper chamber.


Then follow the bouncing ball:

• The Senate currently has a clear Republican majority, and its chosen majority leader is Trent Lott of Mississippi.

• The minority party in the current senate, the Democratic Party, has chosen Thomas A. Daschle of South Dakota as the minority leader.

• That's the way it will stay until Jan. 3, when newly elected members of the next Senate – that would be in the 107th Congress – are sworn in.

• The next president does not take the oath of office until Jan. 20.

• The new Senate will vote Jan. 3 to decide who will be its new majority leader.

• If the Democratic candidate for Senate from Washington, Maria Cantwell, wins the automatic recount now taking place and unseats veteran Republican Sen. Slade Gorton, the composition of the Senate will be evenly split, 50-50, between Democrats and Republicans.

• In event of any tie vote in the Senate, the vice president at the time is empowered by the Constitution to cast the tie-breaking vote.

• Between Jan. 3, when the new Senate is sworn in, and Jan. 20, when the Clinton-Gore administration goes out of office, the vice president will still be Al Gore.

• That means Gore could between Jan. 3 and 20 cast the deciding, tie-breaking vote as to who is the new Senate majority leader.

• That would give control of the Senate – Jan. 3 to 20 – to the Democratic Party, and make Daschle the majority, no longer the minority, leader.

• Daschle could then name Democrats to chair committees and subcommittees and control the flow of Senate business for 17 days.

• It would be a short-lived rule, however, for on Jan. 20, no matter who is finally determined to be president and vice president, control of the Senate will revert to the Republicans.

• That's because even if the Democrat wins the recount in Washington – and she led narrowly in the initial vote tally – and if the Republican ticket of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney are sworn in Jan. 20, Cheney will succeed Gore as vice president and be in position to cast the tie-breaking vote in Republicans' favor, 51-50.

• Or, even if Gore and his Democratic vice-presidential running mate, Joe Lieberman, now a senator from Connecticut, are sworn in Jan. 20, Lieberman will on that date no longer be a member of the Senate.

• Lieberman's seat will have been filled by appointment of a Republican senator named by Connecticut's Republican governor.

• That would give Republicans a 51-49 majority in the Senate, and there would be no tie vote for a Democratic vice president to break.

• And if the Republican candidate for Senate from Washington wins in the recount, there would be an even-wider Republican majority, 52-48.

According to a story Wednesday in the Washington Post, which has been trying to follow that bouncing ball along the corridors of the Senate:

Democrats and Republicans are agreed that this unusual iffy – though likely – situation could in fact give Daschle the mantle of Senate majority leader for all of 17 days in January.

What does Daschle intend to do with it?

He could make life terribly difficult for Republicans in the Senate during that brief period – but at a price to Democrats.

Daschle has far more to gain by being Mr. Nice Guy in his brief position as Senate majority leader.

He's looking ahead to the next two to four years, when he hopes to wring the concession from Republicans of an even split in power in the Senate – perhaps even co-chairs of key committees and an equal say on what legislation moves when onto the Senate floor.

Then, too, there are all those Cabinet nominations a new president will be sending up to the Senate for confirmation – not to mention replacements for possible Supreme Court vacancies.

"We have to look to the longer term and set the proper tone," Daschle said Tuesday. "Whatever short-term gain we would achieve in forcing [a 17-day Democratic takeover] would be lost in terms of the long-term comity we hope to achieve.

"Far more important is what kind of power-sharing agreement we can reach for the long term."

One of the senior Republican leadership aides agreed: "It would not serve anyone to start off that way [if Daschle were to throw his weight around], and we appreciate that."

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As if there weren't already enough ifs in this unprecedented election year. The Daschle if hinges on who wins the recount of votes for senator from that other Washington, the state of. That outcome will be extremely important, for it could put Democrats in control of...
Wednesday, 29 November 2000 12:00 AM
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