Tea party seeks recall of Dem. senators
Republicans’ chances to retake the Senate are limited by the fact that only a third of the chamber is up for re-election this year, but some conservative activists are pushing to force more Democrats onto the ballot in November by trying to recall them.
It’s a long-shot approach, the legal hurdles are tremendous - no member of Congress has ever been recalled - and it’s limited only to states with recall laws that are broad enough to include federal officeholders.
But the first test comes Tuesday, when a judge will hear oral arguments from the Sussex County Tea Party, which is trying to recall Sen. Robert Menendez, New Jersey Democrat.
“Nine states, including 12 Democratic senators who are not up for re-election otherwise, could all be on the ballot with a recall,” said Peter Ferrara, a lawyer for the conservative American Civil Rights Union, which is helping the tea partiers with their case. “Given what they’re doing on health care this year, that’s just going to be a huge boost to the recall effort.”
The legal obstacles are daunting.
A report by the Congressional Research Service, the advisory think tank for Congress, says the Constitution does not authorize a recall and says it’s never happened.
“The recall of members was considered during the time of the drafting of the federal Constitution in 1787, but no such provisions were included in the final version sent to the states for ratification, and the specific drafting and ratifying debates indicate an express understanding of the framers and ratifiers that no right or power to recall a senator or representative from the United States Congress exists under the Constitution,” Jack Maskell, the CRS report’s author, wrote.
In New Jersey, the secretary of state rejected the petition, saying there’s nothing in the Constitution that allows the recall of a federal official. In Louisiana, where a man named Ruben LeBlanc has started a recall petition for Sen. Mary L. Landrieu, a Democrat, the state’s attorney general has also said it’s not allowed.
But a New Jersey judge has expedited an appeal of that state’s decision, and oral arguments are scheduled for next week.
Mr. Ferrara argues the state should allow the recall petition to gather signatures, and fight over the constitutionality later.
Neither Mr. Menendez’s office nor Mrs. Landrieu’s office returned calls seeking comment, and Mr. LeBlanc said Mrs. Landrieu has tried to ignore the issue. But he said he’s convinced she saw him holding a sign urging a recall at a Jan. 15 appearance Mrs. Landrieu made.
“I’m an average citizen. I’ve done construction work, I’ve done oil field work, I’ve managed a Burger King. As a concerned citizen, I’d call in, I’d write, I’d send e-mail and I’d never get a response from Senator Landrieu’s office,” Mr. LeBlanc said. “Instead of holding up signs and doing the tea party protest, I decided somebody had to do something, and that somebody had to be me.”
His challenge is more than just legal. In order to get a recall on the ballot he must gather 900,000 signatures by early July. He said he wants to have them gathered by April 14, the day before federal tax returns are due, and estimated he has between 40,000 and 50,000 signatures now.
The other states which could try recalls of members of Congress are Colorado, Michigan, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin.
Mr. LeBlanc said recall supporters in those states are banding together to form Right2Recall and share tactics and legal strategy.
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