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Hillary Clinton bumps up against Senate seniority rules

Hillary Clinton bumps up against Senate seniority rules

Posted: Wednesday, November 19, 2008 9:13 pm
By: AP


WASHINGTON (AP) — Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton drew about 18 million votes as a presidential candidate. 

But that doesn’t necessarily count for much in the Senate, where seniority rules, and so far not in her favor.

In recent weeks, according to Democratic officials, Clinton’s allies have maneuvered to secure the New York lawmaker a role more prominent than her seniority entitles her to, in recognition of her historic run for the White House.

They angered Massachusetts Sen. Edward M. Kennedy by asking him to set up a subcommittee for her to chair to oversee efforts to draft health care legislation, these officials said.

Kennedy, who is battling brain cancer, declined. He has spent much of his career trying to expand health coverage and intends to chair any hearings himself, although he announced Monday that Clinton would lead a working group on insurance coverage.

Clinton’s allies also suggested dislodging Sen. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota from his leadership position as head of the Democratic Policy Committee, according to these officials. 

They described the events on condition of anonymity, saying they were not authorized to discuss them.

Now under consideration for secretary of state in the incoming Obama administration, Clinton may jettison her congressional career altogether, although associates said it was not a certainty she ultimately would decide she wanted a Cabinet post.

If not, she faces a return to the Senate, where she ranks 33rd in seniority among Democrats — 34th if independent Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut is included. She and her allies would have to petition for advancement that her seniority does not confer.

For now, those conversations are on hold, according to Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., who has been an advocate for Clinton with fellow Democrats.

If Clinton does not go into the administration, she said: “We expect her to have a significant role. I don’t think we’ve agreed to announce that yet.”

Clinton drew an ovation from fellow Democrats on Monday at  in recognition of the fundraising and other work she had done to help swell the party’s majority.

According to one senatoreflects her political standing. Reid’s spokesman declined to comment.

Clinton’s spokesman, Phillip Reines, said the senatorth in seniority on the panel that Kennedy chairs, the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. There are only three subcommittees, though, and she is not in line to chair any, barring creation of several more.

Clinton is also seventh in seniority of 11 Democrats on the Aging Committee, but it lacks authority to send legislation to the full Senate.

According to thalf-century. Seniority helped establish committee rosters, replacing time-consuming roll calls in an era when turnover of senaSenate of the 19th century, when the average life expectancy of an American was slightly above the age of 40, few senators woul was another 40 years before anyone matched his longevity, according to the Web site.

Now, eight incumbent senators have 30e have been in the Senate for four decades or longer.

Inevitably, they hold the most powerful positions, a series of commitn pursuit of a better one, meaning turnover is relatively rare.

And Clinton’s not the only one affected.

After a long man of the Senate Appropriations Committee, West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd, 90, announced recently he would relinquish the gaveal major committees.

After 37 years on the Appropriations Committee, many spent as second-ranking Democrat, Sen. Daniel Inod. Inouye is 84.
Published in The Messenger 11.19.08

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