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Reid Shifts Blame in Recount Fight

Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) shifted his guns Wednesday in the ongoing battle over Minnesota’s vacant Senate seat, redirecting his fire from the GOP candidate challenging the recount to National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (Texas).

Rather than blaming former Sen. Norm Coleman (R) for trying to make up a 225-vote deficit to Democrat Al Franken via the courts, Reid’s chief spokesman, Jim Manley, charged that Cornyn is responsible for a legal fight that has left Minnesota with just one Senator since January.

Democratic Senate leaders also revealed on Wednesday that they would not challenge a vowed Republican filibuster and seat Franken absent official certification of his victory by the state.

“It’s not fair to the people of Minnesota to be represented by only one Senator,” Manley said. “And, it’s about time a Senator from Texas stop telling the people of Minnesota what’s best for them. Enough is enough.”

Senate Democrats originally tried to pressure Coleman into abandoning his legal challenge, allowed under Minnesota’s election law. But given that Franken’s standing was bolstered Tuesday by the first of what is expected to be multiple rulings by a three-judge state panel, the Senate Democratic leadership has moved to try and drive a wedge between Coleman and Senate Republican leaders.

“Coleman has to realize that if he allows Cornyn and McConnell to drag this out, he’ll be damaged for years to come,” argued one Senate Democratic aide.

Cornyn disputed the Senate Democratic criticism and suggested the GOP Conference’s promised filibuster of Franken’s installment could continue even if Coleman comes up short in state court and appeals to the federal bench. Cornyn and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) were clear Wednesday that the Republican Conference would dig in on its filibuster threat until Coleman exhausts all of his legal options.

Calling Manley’s assertions “ridiculous,” Cornyn said: “It’s a question of making sure that the votes of Minnesota voters actually count — every legal vote.”

Republicans believe Coleman’s case is solid. Coleman, a first-term incumbent running for re-election, led by about 700 votes the day after the November election. The closeness of the race triggered state-mandated automatic recounts, after which Franken ended up 225 votes ahead. Coleman’s term expired on Dec. 31.

Coleman is asking the state to allow 1,350 rejected absentee ballots to be added to the vote tally. The three-judge panel ruled Tuesday that only up to 400 of those might be counted, a decision that was considered a victory for Franken. If the panel’s subsequent rulings do not swing the race for Coleman, he is expected to appeal to the state Supreme Court.

Although Reid had previously suggested that he might move to seat Franken this month regardless of whether his victory had been certified, the Majority Leader’s office acknowledged on Wednesday that no action would be taken until Coleman completes his challenges in state court.

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