How 98 senators plus 3 = 100
As a hotel transient President-elect Barack Obama marched onward talking economy and trillions and trying to keep his White House transition on track for a Jan. 20 inauguration despite a D.C. drizzle and mounting distractions like a Cabinet resignation even before the oath-taking, 98% of the United States Senate convened today for the 111th session of Congress. So, mark your scorecards.
The two senators missing were Democrat Al Franken, Republican Norm Coleman and Democrat Roland Burris.
Which is three, but Washington counts funny even beyond the budget.
Challenger Al has been declared the winner by maybe 215 or 225 votes out of nearly 2.5 million, something like that, according to Minnesota's State Canvassing Board, which said it had done all it could. But it's only been two months and two days since the election. So, why end it now? Incumbent Norm announced he respects Minnesotans' votes and the legal system so much that he's filing a contest in the courts to try and hold his seat.
That, in effect, halts the certification of any winner until such issues as alleged double-counting and disputed ballots are sorted out by the folks in robes. No state certification, no Senate seat for anyone.
Same reason was given for hapless Harry Reid barring Burris, the self-described "junior senator from Illinois" who nonetheless traipsed around soggy Capitol Hill making his case to anyone who would listen in the accompanying media entourage. (See news video below.)
"I'm presenting myself as the legally-appointed senator from the state of Illinois," the 71-year-old ex- state attorney general said and re-said. "It is my hope and prayer that they recognize that the appointment is legal." The Senate secretary did not. And Burris' attorney said....
...they're considering new legal options.
Illinois' secretary of state refuses to certify his appointment by Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
But now comes word from NBC's Pete Williams, that legal opinions are shifting against the Burris-barring. Yes, Blago has been convicted of really bad things in the court of public opinion, especially the public opinion of prominent Democrats desperate to avoid any falling debris from the culture of corruption cloud that hangs over Washington.
Trouble is, despite the protective bluster and Democratic denunciations and stalled impeachment threats and defunct special election bids back in Springfield, Blago remains the legal governor with the ability (he says, the duty) and the all-important Illinois political chutzpah to nominate someone to fill the Obama Senate vacancy.
To be fair, Blagojevich hasn't even been legally charged, as the federal prosecutor now says he needs extra time to formulate charges. Not a good sign for the G-men.
And while we're at it, wasn't that Sen. Ted Stevens sitting in Sen. Ted Stevens Senate seat during Sen. Ted Stevens' federal corruption trial last fall? A (Republican) case that was a lot farther along than Blago's.
Also today, Obama was reported to be trying to hire one of CNN's 8,000 commentators, the familiar Dr. Sanjay Gupta, as his surgeon general.
Meanwhile, Obama's transition team set to work scouring the dwindling ranks of ex-Clintonites for someone to replace the secretary of Commerce-undesignate from the New Mexico governor's office. Billygate came amid amid growing grumbling about who misled whom over the federal grand jury probe of Bill Richardson's office that's been in the news for months but the Obama vettors somehow missed it and the gov may or may not have forgotten to mention it on the 62-page Obama job application.
Who hasn't been re-named from the 1990s administration? Is Bettie Currie still around?
Jolly Joe Biden, the vice president-elect, got sworn in again as a senator (by a less jolly VP Dick Cheney, no less). Why not? It's fun. And Biden can get one more taxpayer-funded overseas "fact-finding" trip out of his very short seventh term before resigning to take the VP oath minutes before Obama's inauguration. Soon enough, Biden will be traveling to foreign funerals all over the globe as VP.
Biden will be succeeded slightly by longtime aide, Ted Kaufman, a spaceholder until Biden's son Beau gets ready to run for the family seat next year.
Photo credit: Charles Dharapak / Associated Press
Hat Tip Jennifer R.