LIVE from the DNC Rules and Bylaws Committee Meeting

11:24: Seems like some folks are interested in scoring debating points rather than getting things done...

11:20 a.m: Nelson and the RBC spar over the fact that Democrats in the FL legislature voted in favor of the early primary. Nelson calls this question "adversarial." He notes that the legislature attached to the primary change bill a voter verified paper trial and that FL Dems tried to amend the bill; it was passed; it was signed into law by the governor of Florida. Member David McDonald responds..."The answer was: yes, people voted for it, but there was an explanation?" ... and contends that the Dems could well have chosen an additional process. "At some point in time, people in Florida really seriously tried to get a complaint process inside the window..."

11:19 a.m: Some background: there is no loved lost between Sen. Nelson and most members of the rules and bylaws committee... hence the tension.... The committee thinks that Nelson took an interest in the process way too late.

11:15 a.m.: "While the race for the nomination is not over, and we have two great candidates, and those two are personal friends of mine... while this race is not over, the dispute about these delegates ought to be resolved today."

11:13: a.m. here in one of the press rooms, two people have been lulled to nap.

11:02: a.m: Sen. Bill Nelson brings up Florida 2000...blames the media for telling Florida Democrats that their votes would not count... "Still, they were determined to send a message."

10:59 a.m.: Matt Drudge posts audio of ex-POTUS Bill Clinton talking about the seating of Michigan and Florida's delegates; he says half of the delegation ought to be seated; his wife's campaign, of course, wants the full delegations restored.

10:53 a.m.: Member Don Fowler (a former DNC chair) calls Ausman's interpretation "incorrect." Says there is no legislative history to support the idea that the superdelegates have a privileged status.

10:51 a.m.: Member David McDonald: notes that the charter does not give each delegate a VOTE at the convention, only the status of delegate. Ausman says it is assumed by the context.

10:48: a.m. Ausman contends that the rules prohibit the DNC from imposing additional penalties on states whose violations consist only of timing problems.

10:46: a.m. Note to the Daily Show writers who read this blog: "a shall in the charter is stronger than a shall in the rules. If you enforce this shall, you better be enforcing the shall in the constitution that says not only am I a delegate, I'm a delegate will a full vote." -- cool, right?

10:44 a.m.: Ausman holds that the automatic penalty trigger, since it contains the word "shall," cannot be expanded if the violation (the "material deficiencies") is due to the time violation. Rule 20(c)(1)(a): "a shall in the charter is stronger than a shall in the rules. If you enforce this shall, you better be enforcing the shall in the constitution that says not only am I a delegate, I'm a delegate will a full vote."

10:42 a.m.: Ausman: "If you want to punish me, and the other DNC members...who tried to get another delegate selection process...if you want to punish me for ...standing up to ..Charlie Crist, you cannot do it." Interesting but elitist argument here... the superdelegates have more standing in Ausman's eyes than the pledged delegates.... there's certainly a personal edge to his words....

10:38 a.m. Ausman notes that many DNC officials are delegates without being chosen; that supports his claim that DNC members and members of Congress "shall" be delegates without having to go through a process to choose them; "even if you think these processes apply to the selection of the charter delegates, I would advise you to read Article II, Section 38.. Notwithstanding any provisions to the contrary, the DNC shall ensure that the National Convention shall provide for all the members of the Democratic National Committee to serve as unpledged delegates."

10:34: a.m.: Ausman acknowledges that Florida did not comply with the rules and ought to be subject to some penalty. ... Article 10, Sec 3: "Each official body of the Dem party...shall .conduct its affairs ...which ... shall be consistent with this Charter." ... He's arguing about the supremacy of the charter... Article 4, Sec. 2: The delegates shall be chosen through process which ... provides for all of the members of the Democratic National Committee to serve as unpledged delegates." Emphasize on "shall." No conditionals. Notes that DNC staff analysis concurs that plain reading of charter supports that interpretation and that, therefore, a subsequent ruling on superdelegates was invalid. [The staff analysis also says that the charter could well be differentiating between valid and invalid processes.)

10:32 a.m.: Jon Ausman gets 15 minutes, and he seems to be spending the first part of his time pointing out every single Floridian who showed up.

10:31: a.m.: Harold Ickes seeks a point of information: "My understand is that both the Obama campaign and the Clinton campaign have intervened in this challenge."

10:30 a.m.: the Ausman challenge is up. (1) DNC members and members of Congress are, according to the bylaws, automatic delegates to the convention. (185 pledged delegates should be subject to the half penalty only.) (2) Ausman interprets the rules to suggest that the committee had no authority to extend penalties for states found in noncompliance for reasons of timing.

10:26 a.m.: Beginning the discussion of the Ausman challenges, DNC co-chair James Roosevelt notes that Florida could have rescheduled its primary for after Feb. 5 after they were found in noncompliance. "This was not some theoretical possibility." (Well, but it would have cost millions to hold a primary, and no one was willing to pay for it)

10:15 a.m.: It's all about Michigan, Co-Chair Alexis Herman notes pointedly that Michigan was included in the process to change the calendar and add states, (and thus by implication ought not to be complaining.) She reiterates that the RBC had the discretion to extend the automatic penalty (50% of delegates lost) to 100% and did so.

10:08: a.m. Dean blames the media for "sexist" and "racist" remarks. "That will stop."

10:07: a.m.: Dean refers to "five intellectually bankrupt members of the U.S. Supreme Court" who took the 2004 election away from Al Gore.

10:06: a.m.: Howard Dean tells a story about how Al Gore calmed one of his rants about the state of the Democratic party back in 2003. "Howard, you know, this is not about you, this is about your country."

10:04: a.m.: So there's a consensus... this thing will go by quickly, right? Not a chance. There are 28 members of the rules committee and a national cable audience. People are going to want to talk.

10:00 a.m: DNC chairman of Howard Dean is marveling at the participation of millions of Democrats. 35,000,000 people have come out to support Democrats. "Young voters have tripled, and in some cases quadrupled, previous turnout. In fact, 58% of voters under 30 now identify themselves as Democratic or leaning Democratic."

10:00 a.m.: So here's the Florida consensus: the entire delegation will be restored; each delegate will receive half of a vote; the delegates will be allocated according to the popular vote totals in the state. So Hillary Clinton picks up 19 votes.

09:57 a.m.: There is a quorum; 28 of 30 RBC members are present.

At 9:44, a.m. Co-Chair Alexis Herman gavels the "largest rules and bylaws committee meeting that we have ever had" to order.

09:30: Mitch Cesar, the long-time Broward Co., FL Democratic chairman and a member of the rules and bylaws committee, confirms the notion of a well-developed consensus about Florida's delegation. The fireworks, Mr. Cesar said, will be shot over Michigan, where the state's senior senator, Carl Levin, intends to protect the institutional prerogatives of his state. "We have members of Congress from Florida here who aren't going to speak because they can get a little too excited," he said.

09:38: A woman, dressed in a pink pants suit, parks herself in one of the press filing rooms and refuses to leave. Security hired by the hotel is called. They surrounded the woman; a 20 minute, unproductive discussion ensues. The woman claims she was escorted into the press room by a DNC official; the official, conveniently enough, cannot be found. The woman stood up and immediately fell to the ground, laying prostrate in protest. "Adam nine, we need SOD up to the McKinnon room," one of the hotel security agents radioed. The woman looked up at the curious members of the press corps. "Sorry to disturb you.," she said. As I type, a half dozen police officers and an equal number of security guards are trying to escort her out.