November 20, 2002
A 'Warm' Welcome For Jeffords?

Various bloggers have reported that turncoat senator Jeffords of Vermont is willing to come back to the Republican party if he can keep a committee chairmanship. I'm not up on all the Senate rules, but it seems to me there might be some possibilities here for a truly worthy punishment:

1. If I'm not mistaken, the Senate first votes as a whole to decide who controls the chamber, and then the parties divide up to pass out majority and minority committee assignments without any interference from the other side. Would it be possible to string Jeffords along with ambiguous promises until after the vote on control? Promises like "we'll make sure you're taken care of" or "we'll give you a committee chairmanship suited to your experience". Once he had helped vote the Republicans back into power, they could then leave him off all the committees, or all the good committees, whichever is worse. (Are there committees so low in prestige that being on them is worse than not being on any?) He would then have three possible courses of action, all humiliating: accept being stripped of power, resign from the Senate, or switch sides again and beg the Democrats to take him in again.

2. It would be even better if the Republicans could hold off organizing the majority committee assignments until after the Democrats had organized the minority side. That way, if Jeffords went back to the Democrats with hat in hand, they would not be able to give him any seats on the minority side without bumping someone else, which would irritate the loyal Democrats.

3. Of course, that might not work, since the Democrats could wait to assign the minority seats until after the Republicans had divvied up the majority seats and chairs. All the more so if they suspected something was up. But couldn't the Republicans give Jeffords a chairmanship and various committee assignments, wait until the Democrats had assigned their seats -- surely no more than a week -- then go back and reshuffle their own, leaving Jeffords with nothing at all, or nothing much worth having? Telling a few Republicans that they were going to get better than expected assignments would be much easier than telling a few Democrats that they were losing their plums.

I just hope the senate Republican leadership is ruthless enough to do something like this. It would be good for the party and good for the country, particularly encouraging the first two virtues on the official Boy Scout list. (That's "trustworthy" and "loyal", if you've forgotten.)

By the way, in college, I once attended a lecture by Mortimer Adler in which he mentioned the Boy Scouts' list of twelve virtues and implied that he was sure none of us could recite them all. None of us was rude enough to correct him on the spot, but I was certainly not the only one in the audience who had to suppress a strong urge to jump up and shout "trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean, and reverent". I guess the "courteous" part had stuck.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at November 20, 2002 08:09 PM

Alas, I don't think it'd work. As I understand it, Jeffords' offer is a straightforward "I'll switch parties if you let me keep my current chairmanship" (which was the offer he made to the Democrats). And from the rumors I'm hearing, he's been shot down so thoroughly that even he isn't stupid enough to believe any half-offer we might make now.

That doesn't mean we're out of options, though--we could always follow Jonah Goldberg's suggestion and sew a half-starved weasel into his small intestine.

Another possible thought... for the last year-and-a-half, Jeffords has been able to milk the "independence" thing for all it's worth. He keeps his chairmanship, just as if he were a Democrat, but he doesn't actually vote with the Democrats on the Senate's organization (technically, the Democrats had a 50-49-1 majority).

If I were Tom Daschle, I'd be just about fed up with that BS. I'd say, "Listen, Jeffords, either you caucus with us or you don't. If you don't, well, golly, I guess you aren't going to be on any committees, are you?"

Posted by: Arkat Kingtroll on November 20, 2002 08:20 PM

You attended a lecture by Mortimer Adler?

Alright, fess up. You're a Johnnie, aren't you?

Posted by: Chris Newman on November 21, 2002 01:47 AM

The scenario you describe has happened before, but it was in the House. The felonious representative from Ohio, James Traficant, voted for Hastert for Speaker. Them Dems retaliated by stripping him of all his commitee seats. The R's weren't going to give up any of their seats for a Dem, so Traficant wound up with lots of free time.

Posted by: Kieran Lyons on November 21, 2002 12:35 PM

My version of your Mortimer Adler incident came during my college freshman Chemistry class. The instructor remarked in passing one day that he didn't think everyone happened to know the quadratic formula. At this point, almost the entire class started to chant, spontaneously, "y equals -b +/- the square root of b-squared - 4ac, over 2a." We could not have been more synchronized had we been trained by Whoopi Goldberg.

Posted by: Bruce Lagasse on November 21, 2002 07:38 PM

I myself think that just pointing and laughing at every possible opportunity would suffice. It's certainly what I plan to do anyway.

Posted by: Mike on November 22, 2002 06:04 AM