Follow by Email

Monday, March 31, 2008

What Is This Thing Called The Credentials Committee?

By Greg Sargent -

Here it is: The Election Central Idiot's Guide To The Credentials Committee.

The other day Hillary said in an interview that if the Florida and Michigan voting standoffs don't get resolved by the campaigns, this will be resolved one way or another at the Democratic National Convention in August -- by the credentials committee.

Her comments caused a big stir, and since then there's been a great deal of confusion out there over how the process will work, with some of you readers wondering whether Hillary could amass a majority on the committee and swing the decision her way.

So, after talking to the Democratic National Committee about this, here's the deal on how the credentials committee works.

There are a total of 186 members on the credentials committee. Twenty five of them are appointed by DNC chair Howard Dean, and the remainder are alloted by state, in numbers based on each state's population and Democratic performance.

The process that determines how those credential committee members are split between the candidates is a convoluted one. But the gist of it is that each state's delegation to the credentials committee is allocated between the candidates in a number that's proportional to the number of pledged delegates he or she has won in that state.

So Hillary could conceivably get a marginally higher proportion of members on the committee out of bigger states, which she's won more of. But the bottom line is that in the end the breakdown on the committee will hew very closely to the overall breakdown of pledged delegates. So presuming things continue as they have, Hillary will not have a majority, and Obama will have more members on the committee than she does.

Then what happens?

Well, the Florida and Michigan delegations will petition to be seated. The delegations can ask for a straight seating or they can suggest more creative solutions to the problem. Alternatively, outside parties might suggest solutions to the committee, too.

There is no formal process by which the committee decides to vote on any particular proposal. So, basically, after some discussion, the committee agrees to hold a vote on a particular proposal for seating the delegations in one way or another. (Or, alternatively, the committee would consider separate solutions to each state's problem.)

At this point, three things can happen.

(1) If a majority of the committee supports the proposal without significant dissent, the delegations are seated according to the proposal's directives.

(2) If a majority of the committee supports the proposal but 20 percent or more dissent, they get to issue a minority report -- and the proposal goes to the full convention for a vote.

(3) If the proposal doesn't get majority support, the delegations aren't seated.

In number (2) there lies the capacity for a minority on the committee to create mischief.

So here's the takeaway: Hillary will not have a majority on the committee; neither will Obama, though he will have more members than she does. But Hilllary's supporters could conceivably force a full convention vote on whatever proposal the committee considers.

Is that likely? Not really. The credentials committee is unlikely to consider a proposal that is flat-out opposed by either campaign. And even so, Hillary supporters would be unlikely to take so drastic a step, because it probably wouldn't prevent the ultimate passage of the proposal in question -- and would end up getting them blamed for the mess that would inevitably ensue.

Need More: Clinton's Convention Strategy In Doubt

No comments: