WASHINGTON – The Senate’s normally obscure rules committee is the insider among the inside boards, usually responsible for distributing precious office space around the Capitol, keeping the Senate running, and fighting over obscure land litigation.
But the circumstances and ambitions of the current chairman of the committee, Senator Amy Klobuchar, Democrat of Minnesota, have got the committee right in the middle of things. In just six months, she campaigned for a comprehensive suffrage bill to be pursued by the Democrats, while her committee investigated the errors in the January 6 attack on the Capitol. The panel was also responsible for orchestrating President Biden’s inauguration just two weeks after the deadly uprising.
“For so long, people have understandably focused on the inner workings of the Senate with the Rules Committee,” said Ms. Klobuchar, who when asked if she was trying to turn the body into a force, answered with an emphatic “yes”. “But the point is that we have greater jurisdiction, and that is our democracy.”
In keeping with that focus, the panel will convene its first field hearing in Atlanta on Monday to shed the spotlight on the new electoral restrictions imposed by Republican lawmakers there and elsewhere in hopes of creating an argument for what appears to be Fatally stalled voting rights measure. It is part of a rare move by the rules committee to try its hand at legislating – or at least setting the agenda – on a major political issue.
“This is a concerted effort against our democracy,” said Ms Klobuchar of the Republican push across the country. “It is a continuation of that lie that this election was somehow fraudulent and that Joe Biden was not the rightful winner. For me it’s about that. “
Republicans, who are unlikely to be very present at the hearing, are vehemently opposed to legislation that Democrats say would protect voters, especially people of color, from efforts by Republicans to make it harder to vote. They dismissed the Atlanta event as a Democratic show, despite admitting that Ms. Klobuchar had every right to stage it.
“She chairs the committee, and that’s a hot topic with the Democrats,” said Senator Richard C. Shelby, Republican of Alabama and past chair of the rules committee.
While the panel’s emphasis on overseeing the day-to-day running of the Senate makes it seem like a backwater, it has often been led by shrewd gamblers like Mr. Shelby. Given its power to allocate meeting rooms and coveted office space, and to distribute other perks, those who oversee the panel can reward allies and punish opponents while building influence in the chamber.
The two current Senate leaders, Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York, and Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, have both served as rules committee chairs and are both members of the panel. Senate legends like Mike Mansfield, the former Montana majority leader, also chaired the committee.
The body may be known for overseeing mundane matters like the Senate’s food supplies, but the institution’s rules give it a much broader scope, such as “federal elections in general, including the election of President, Vice-President, and members of Congress “. This portfolio can exert influence if the chairman of the committee exercises it.
“If you have a chairman who has the time, energy, and interest to make something of the committee’s jurisdiction, he can have real power,” said Jean Bordewich, a former Democratic director of the committee who is now with the US -Democracy is a program of the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. “At the moment, elections are in the foreground.”
Because of the electoral responsibility of the committee, Missouri Senator Roy Blunt, senior Republican and former chairwoman, were at the center of the presidential vote count and instigated horrific events that are normally counted as a matter of routine. Ms. Klobuchar said she was concerned about the election ceremony after the election but never anticipated the violent attack on the Capitol that interrupted the process and forced lawmakers to a safe place when the Capitol Police fought Trump loyalists, who stormed the building.
As they remained sealed off, Ms. Klobuchar said she had a message for her colleagues: As soon as it was certain, the House of Representatives and Senate would complete the presidential balance sheet.
“We will finish our work,” said Ms. Klobuchar. “And everyone cheered.” In the early hours of January 7th, she and Mr. Blunt returned to the house and stepped over broken glass and other evidence of the breakage to complete the count.
But the attack – coupled with the pandemic – sparked new fears about sticking to the dedication schedule on the Capitol’s west terrace as some urged that the procedure be curtailed as protection. You and Mr. Blunt, who have a good professional and personal relationship, insisted on sticking to the traditional approach to show that the attack on the Capitol did not stop the power transfer. They were determined to hold the opening ceremony on the makeshift platform that the rioters had climbed and badly damaged weeks earlier.
“There were members who wanted to move the opening ceremony inside, especially after January 6th, but both the President-elect and his team and our committee wanted to keep it as close as possible to what everyone in the world was expecting,” said Mr., said Blunt. “And I think we did.”
In an aggressive move following the attack, Ms. Klobuchar reached out to Senator Gary Peters, a Michigan Democrat who chairs the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, to suggest they formally conduct a speedy investigation. After hearings, the panel recommended changes in a bipartisan report that is believed to be credible, albeit to a limited extent. And that’s where the bipartisanship ended, as Ms. Klobuchar supported the idea of an independent body to delve deeper while Mr. Blunt and almost all Republicans opposed the idea.
“We both thought our report was important,” she said. “I just felt we needed more.”
Mr Blunt is also a leading opponent of the electoral measure, which he describes as the Democrats’ attempt to “try to take federal control of the electoral process”. Although he will not be attending Monday’s meeting, he said he would be interested to see “if this hearing adds anything to the discussion”.
The question for the electoral measure is what can be done to get it over the unanimous and deep Republican opposition. The Democrats are currently lacking the votes to eliminate the filibuster and enforce the measure themselves. Ms. Klobuchar admitted that a filibuster-protected budget-balancing measure would only be a possible path for some electoral provisions for the Democrats, but that these would be restricted by strict rules.
“We’ll do what we can,” she said.
Ms. Klobuchar, who ran for the presidency in 2020, rejected a suggestion that her high-profile leadership of the panel was linked to her own political goals in order to keep her in the national debate.
“It’s my job,” she said of a role that hasn’t always attracted politicians trying to make a name for themselves. “It’s not the job that everyone would have chosen, but it was my job and, in my opinion, I was in the right place at the right time.”