Aug. 22, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Crist’s ‘I’ll Caucus With the People’ Has Limits

Crist is in a competitive three-way race with Rubio and whoever emerges from the Democratic primary contest between Rep. Kendrick Meek and billionaire real estate investor Jeff Greene. The RealClearPolitics.com average of all surveys taken from July 9 to Aug. 1 showed Crist ahead of the pack at 36.8 percent support, followed by Rubio at 31.8 percent and Meek, the Democrat most often polled, at 15.8 percent.

Since the 1840s, Senate rules have dictated that the leadership of the two party caucuses determines committee assignments. Chamber rules do mandate that all Senators “shall” serve on two committees. But absent an appointment by one of the two parties, Crist’s committee assignments would likely be limited to a couple of inconsequential panels, as Morse found out during the 83rd Congress.

In the 1850s, when the first Republicans were elected to the Senate, they also found themselves in a committee no man’s land, caught between the Democrats and the Whigs, whom they eventually supplanted. Currently, there are two Independents serving — Sens. Joe Lieberman (Conn.) and Bernie Sanders (Vt.), but both caucus with the Democrats. Lieberman even serves as chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

“Anytime we’ve had Independent Senators come in, they’ve generally chosen to sit with one conference or another,” Senate Historian Don Ritchie said.

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