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Minnesota Senate Recount, Update IX

The Coleman campaign has just issued the following press release that confirms the nightmare scenarios sketched out by John Fund in his Wall Street Journal column today:

ST. PAUL - Hours after the Franken campaign failed to convince the Minnesota State Canvassing Board to intervene on its behalf, Senate President Harry Reid (D-Nev) supported Franken’s attorney’s statement that they are prepared to take the Minnesota election to the U.S. Senate for a decision.

According to comments published by Talking Points Memo, Franken’s lead recount attorney, Marc Elias, said:

“There are a number of ways this can happen, whether it is at the county level, before the state canvassing board, before the courts of Minnesota, or before the United States Senate, we do not know,” said Elias — but they will see to it that every vote is counted.”

Later Wednesday afternoon, Reid opened the door for Senate intervention into the Minnesota election processing, saying: “Today’s decision by the Minnesota Canvassing Board not to count certain absentee ballots is cause for great concern.” Reid made the statement in a release from his official U.S. Senate office.

Coleman Campaign Manager Cullen Sheehan responded:

“This is a stunning admission by the Franken campaign that they are willing to take this process away from Minnesotans if they fail to win the recount. It is even more stunning that the Democratic Senate leader would inject himself into the Minnesota election process. This says that Franken is fully prepared and armed to take this matter to the United States Senate and that the Senate will be receptive – even if Franken fails to succeed in winning the recount. This is a troubling new development. We call upon Al Franken to personally disavow his attorney’s comments, and to commit to Minnesotans that he will not allow this election to be overturned by the leadership of the Democratic Senate. Al Franken owes it to the people of this state to reject any and all efforts to stop a Minnesota Senator from being sworn in on January 6th if Norm Coleman continues to be shown to have won this election after the recount.”

It’s hard to believe that Minnesotans will take kindly to having this particular gun pointed at their heads, but there it is.

JOHN adds: This seems dumb; dumb to carry out such a naked power grab, dumber, in a sense, to threaten it. The blowback from Minnesotans if the Democrats try to override local procedures and steal the seat would be, I think, huge.

A question: once a party controls a majority of the Senate, isn’t it always theoretically possible for them to claim as many seats as they want simply by voting to seat their candidate, whether or not he won the election? That, in essence, is what the Democrats are threatening to do here, but there is nothing unique about this situation; a Senate majority can do the same thing any time it wants, in theory, as far as I know.

Likewise with the filibuster: a bare majority could vote to eliminate the filibuster rule, but neither party has been willing to do this because both realize that their time in the minority will come. Another question: the Democrats want Coleman’s seat in order to bring them to 60. But if their concern is the filibuster, wouldn’t they be better served to change the filibuster rule than to steal the Minnesota seat? Maybe not; perhaps the Democrats calculate that they have a reasonable chance to convince voters around the country that Franken *really* won the election.

Most likely, though, this is just a trial balloon. I seriously doubt that the Democrats would risk seating Franken in the face of a Coleman electoral victory, followed by a recount victory, followed by victory in the Minnesota courts.

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