DNC Awards Clinton 24 Delegates

Posted May 31, 2008 at 7:51pm

In a blow to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s (N.Y.) chances of clinching the Democratic presidential nomination, the Democratic National Committee’s rules panel on Saturday night approved a formula for seating the rebellious Florida and Michigan delegations that netted Clinton a total of 24 delegates.

After 10 hours of tension-filled and sometimes raucous hearings, the DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee ultimately decided to seat the delegations from Florida and Michigan, but to award each delegate half a vote at the party convention in August, which is short of what the Clinton campaign wanted.

After adopting the proposal to seat Michigan’s delegates, Clinton backers, including chief strategist Harold Ickes, left open the possibility of continuing the fight past the end of the primaries on Tuesday.

“We reserve our right to appeal,” Ickes told Roll Call after the vote was complete.

In a result that left some Clinton backers in tears, the committee voted, 19 to 8, to give 34.5 Michigan delegates to Clinton compared with 29.5 delegates for Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.), her rival for the Democratic nod. That gives Clinton a net total of 5 Michigan delegates.

Just before that, the committee unanimously approved a Florida deal that would allocate 52.5 delegates to Clinton, 33.5 delegates to Obama and 6.5 delegates to former presidential candidate and ex-Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.). That gives Clinton a total of 19 delegates in the Sunshine State.

The result was more in keeping with the proposal to seat the delegations advocated by the Obama camp, which holds the lead in pledged delegates over Clinton heading into the party convention in August. Although Clinton backers seemed generally satisfied with the Florida agreement, they denounced the Michigan deal.

“What it means is that for Florida our traumatic experience is behind us,” said Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.), an Obama backer.

Wexler proclaimed that the result allowed the “party to unite” despite the fact that a protester showed him a bruise on her arm and claimed that she had been thrown out of the convention hall.

The rules panel appears to have dealt a decisive blow to Clinton’s come-from-behind hopes of securing the Democratic nomination, because it did not fully seat either delegation. Clinton won the Florida and Michigan primaries, but Obama was not on the ballot in Michigan.

Both the Clinton and Obama campaigns initially agreed with Democratic leaders to punish the Florida and Michigan delegations for holding their primaries too early by refusing to seat their delegations. But as Clinton’s hopes of winning the nod dwindled, she began to argue that it was undemocratic and simply unfair not to count those voters.

But the committee chose to adopt plans for Florida and Michigan that would seat all delegates and superdelegates, but give them only half a vote at the Denver convention in August.

Speaking before the deal was approved, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) told the panel that “we are all here to give voice to the people of Florida” and encouraged adopting that deal.

“Like all Americans, Floridians are mainly concerned about the war in Iraq, the sagging economy … Floridians are also interested in having their votes count,” Nelson told the panel. “My preferred solution [is] that this panel seat the entire Florida delegation … [but] at a minimum, the Florida Democratic party [should] seat the maximum number of delegates allowed under the rules.

“These voters violated no rules, committed no crime … yet they are the ones that will be punished,” he added. “In Florida, we’re pretty sensitive about having our votes taken away.”

Wexler endorsed a plan proposed by DNC committeeman Jon Ausman. The deal would seat 92 pledged delegates and all of the state’s superdelegates, netting Clinton 19 delegates overall. At times whipping the crowd into a frenzy, the Palm Beach-area lawmaker said Clinton violated a DNC pact not to campaign in the state, a deal to which he said Obama stuck.

“Both Sens. Clinton and Obama agreed not to campaign,” Wexler said. “The Obama campaign respected this Rules committee. He was not as well-known as Sen. Clinton.”

Still, despite the outcome, Wexler told the panel that “we cannot reverse the fact that this election was held months ago,” but he said the time to close the book on the dispute was at hand.

“We must find a way as Democrats … to resolve this situation, so Florida can participate in this nominating process,” he said. “It’s time for the campaigns and the rules committee to reach a dignified resolution.”

Wexler’s comments dovetailed with DNC Chairman Howard Dean’s opening remarks at the Washington, D.C., gathering. The former Vermont governor earlier in the day touched on the toll of the protracted – and often bloody nominating contest, a fight that may come to end within days.

“This has been a very long and hard-fought race,” Dean said. “I’m not going to gloss over the challenges of an extended primary.”

In arguing for the adoption of a compromise plan in his state, Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) also echoed Dean’s suggestions of collateral damage in the primary, endorsing the use of a complex formula in Michigan that would take into account poll-goers who voted “uncommitted” in the state’s Jan. 15 primary.

The Levin-endorsed deal would have netted Clinton six overall delegates.

“Let me get to bottom line: The Democratic Party needs unity in this battle,” Levin said. “The Michigan Party has achieved unity … we’re asking you to preserve it.”