Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Massachusetts Sen.-elect Scott Brown on Wednesday demanded to be seated immediately, saying that while he is scheduled to be sworn in Feb. 11, “there are a number of votes scheduled prior to that date.”

In a letter from his lawyers to Gov. Deval Patrick and Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin, Mr. Brown argues that the results of the special election in Massachusetts on Jan. 19 are not in doubt and he should be able to take the seat right away.

“We represent Senator-elect Scott Brown. We understand that the election returns from Massachusetts cities and towns were transmitted this morning to the State Secretary’s Office and by the State Secretary to the Governor’s Office. While Senator-elect Brown had tentatively planned to be sworn into office February 11, he has been advised that there are a number of votes scheduled prior to that date, For that reason, he wants certification to occur immediately. As he is the duly elected United States Senator from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, he is entitled to be seated now.

“Accordingly, on behalf of Senator-elect Brown, we request that the results of the special election January 19, 2010, be certified without delay and that a duplicate be provided me in hand no later than 11:00 a.m. on Thursday, February 4, 2010, so we may deliver the original by hand to the Secretary of the United States Senate in time to allow Senator-elect Brown to be administered the oath of office by the Vice President tomorrow afternoon,” wrote lawyer Daniel B. Winslow.

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Once sworn in, Mr. Brown would give the GOP 41 votes in the Senate, one more than the party needs to sustain a filibuster of Democratic initiatives.

Mr. Brown wants to vote on several issues coming before the Senate soon. “There are votes coming up on nominees for GSA administrator, Solicitor-General and the National Labor Relations Board,” said one of his top aides, Eric Fehrnstom.

As pre-election polls showed him with a chance of winning, Mr. Brown complained when Mr. Galvin — a Democrat — said it would take him several weeks to certify the results because of a state law requiring a 10-day waiting period to receive absentee ballots. There also is an additional five-day waiting period for cities and towns to send him their official results.

On Jan. 20, Mr. Galvin sought to defuse the situation by sending the Senate clerk a letter saying it appeared Mr. Brown had won the election. Similar documents had previously allowed newly elected members of the House to be sworn in.

Yet officials in the Senate, similarly controlled by Democrats, said they needed an official certification from the governor before scheduling a ceremony with Vice President Joe Biden, who serves as president of the Senate.

President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid lessened any need for an immediate ceremony when they pledged to withhold any votes on the president’s proposed health care overhaul until Mr. Brown was seated.

But despite a pledge that he would not “rush” important votes before Mr. Brown is seated, Mr. Reid called a Monday vote on the nomination of M. Patricia Smith to be solicitor for the Department of Labor.

Mrs. Smith, now New York’s labor commissioner, has come under fire for the state’s Wage Watch program. The project, started last January, seeks input from citizens on companies that do not pay proper wages.

Sen. Mike Enzi, the ranking Republican on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, put a hold on her nomination and asked President Obama to withdraw his nominee, charging that she gave inconsistent testimony before the panel about the program.

Because of Mr. Enzi’s hold, 60 votes would be required in the Senate to approve a cloture motion and move to a full floor vote.

The Senate voted Monday along party lines — 60-32 — voted to move along the confirmation if Mrs. Smith. All 58 Democrats — including the one Mr. Brown will replace — and both independents voted to advance the nomination.

Republican senators said Mr. Reid has not violated his pledge to them.

“He’s lived up to that,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, who said he interpreted Mr. Reid’s vow as applying only to health care votes.

Democrats last week needed all 60 members of their caucus to push through an increase to the country’s debt limit, including the vote of Sen. Paul Kirk, who holds the Massachusetts seat until Mr. Brown is sworn in.

Mr. Alexander said he expects the situation with Mr. Brown to be cleared up any day.

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