Brown Surprise: Seat Me Now!
Now that his election as Senator from Massachusetts has been certified, Scott Brown wants to get to work -- and much more quickly than his colleagues in the Senate had prepared for. Brown's campaign counsel asked Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick to sign the formal certification by tomorrow morning, so Brown can take the papers and present them to the Senate tomorrow and demand that he be seated.
But Brown and the Senate leadership had agreed to swear the new senator in on Feb. 11, which would give Brown the time to put a staff together and find a place to stay in Washington. Is Brown breaking the deal? (He suggested Feb. 11 himself.)
"They're moving forward with controversial issues and nominations. These are votes where his vote is the deciding one," an outside Brown adviser said.
"This man is now the certified winner in Massachusetts. The question is whether he's sworn in or not. There are real optical concerns about [the Senate] moving forward with a nominee -- Craig Becker -- who they would in 48 hours not be able to move."
Becker is a National Labor Relations Board nominee who is seen by critics as too pro-labor. His nomination is incredibly important to Democrats' labor union base, which has spent in excess of $300 million to elect Democrats over the past several years. Brown also wants his say on Obama's nominee to head the General Services Administration and his nominee for solicitor general. Becker's nomination was held up by Sen. John McCain.
Democrats were scrambling to respond to Brown's gambit. By tradition, Vice President Biden would be the one to swear Brown in, but any number of folks could do it. And Democrats who are wary of being seen as hyper-partisan might not be able to come up with an excuse to deny Brown the seat.
Jim Manley, a spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, said that "if he wants to be sworn in tomorrow, that's fine by us."
Translation: this isn't a fight that Democrats will pick.
Besides the Becker vote, Democrats are expected to move forward with a big jobs bill early next week.
"Feb. 11 was always a tentative date," said Eric Fehrnstrom, a Brown spokesperson. "Since the election results are now complete, there's no reason to wait. There are important votes coming up that Senator-elect Brown wants to participate in."
Still, Brown's team insisted that Feb 11. was the target date -- on Tuesday. Democrats said the sudden change of heart had the hallmarks of a Republican plot. But they insisted that there was nothing they could do.