This Just In… New caboose on the trainwreck:
UPDATE: Sen. McAllister set to attend afternoon committee discussion surrounding his possible suspension in-person #vtpoli
— Kyle Midura (@WCAX_Kyle) December 16, 2015
It should be entertaining in a trainwreck sort of way, when the State Senate Rules Committee gets together Wednesday afternoon to discuss The Curious Case Of The Predator Senator. Regarding Norm McAllister, Our Most Senior Deliberative Body has been acting like anything but. Opinions are scattered in every direction, there’s no hint of a consensus, and in less than one month we could be treated to the spectacle of the accused sexual felon McAllister taking his honored seat in the Senate chambers.
As a blogger with a vested interest in chaos, all I can say is oh please, please, let it be so.
The Rules Committee is a curious construct, presumably born of President Pro Tem John Campbell’s unique leadership style: a mix of moderation, obfuscation, and inertia. I mean, look: the Democrats have 18 seats out of 30; there are three Prog/Dem/Indy hybrids, all representing the left side of the spectrum; and a mere nine Republicans.
So how is it that the Rules Committee includes two Republicans and a conservative “Democrat” who’s actively supporting Phil Scott, Republican candidate for governor? Plus the Pro Tem himself, who has supported Scott in the psat and is known as one of the least liberal members of his caucus. The Furious Five:
Republicans Joe Benning and Peg Flory; Republidem Dick Mazza; Democrats John Campbell and Phil Baruth.
For a strongly liberal body, that’s an awful lot of conservatism and institutionalism. Plus, Campbell installed himself as Rules Committee chair, so he clearly wanted to have his own hand firmly on this particular tiller.
Well, as they say, he should be careful what he wishes for, because now the McAllister mess is directly in his lap. And the committee members couldn’t be more divergent in their views. Benning has pushed expulsion. Baruth is promoting paid suspension*, which Campbell supports.
*As a taxpayer, I can’t tell you the feeling I’d get from knowing that I would be forced to help pay McAllister’s salary.
But Flory is a hard-core McAllister loyalist who wants him to serve until his criminal case is concluded, and maybe even after that. And Mazza? He told VTDigger this week that “I’m leaning towards not doing anything at this time.” Which pretty much encapsulates his entire political philosophy.
I imagine that Campbell and Baruth will drag Mazza along and win majority support for suspension. That measure would be taken up by the Senate on day one of the new session, the better to get the whole shemozzle off their desks as quickly as possible. If so, then McAllister would be barred from the Senate fllor — but there’s nothing to stop him from wandering the hallways of the Statehouse and sitting in the Senate gallery like The Ghost Of Inactions Past.
The hearing should provide some entertainment and some validation of my view that the Senate is a dysfunctional blivit*, a wart on the body politic. That is, unless Campbell gets his act together and forges a behind-the-scenes deal to expedite the Baruth resolution. (One political watcher commented recently that he couldn’t believe it’s taken this long for leadership to come to grips with l’affaire McAllister. It seemed like they kept waiting and waiting for him to resign and never developed a Plan B. Which ain’t my idea of leadership.)
*Dictionary.com: “Something annoying, ridiculous, or useless.” On the nose.
Unfortunately for me, transportation issues will prevent my attendance at the hearing. Too bad. I would have enjoyed the challenge of listening to the proceedings while keeping a straight face and resisting the urge to snort derisively.