Senators Poised to Postpone Stevens’ Ouster

Posted November 17, 2008 at 1:46pm

Updated: 3:34 p.m.

Senate GOP aides said on Monday that the short-term fate of embattled Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) could remain in doubt beyond Tuesday’s Conference meeting.

They also noted that Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) plans to postpone any decisions on committee assignments until three outstanding Senate elections, including Stevens’, are resolved.

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) has proposed stripping Stevens of his committee posts as well as his membership in the Republican Conference as a result of his seven-count felony conviction last month.

DeMint is expected to offer his motion tomorrow during the GOP Senators’ closed-door session. Another lawmaker would need to second DeMint’s move to prompt a Conference-wide vote.

Stevens has been making calls to his colleagues over the last few weeks, hoping to shore up his position within the GOP.

Although leadership aides said Stevens would be ousted from the Conference if the proposal comes to a vote on Tuesday, it now appears Senators may want to push off that decision, at least for now.

According to several aides, there is a growing sentiment within the Conference that lawmakers should wait until Stevens’ re-election race against Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich (D) is resolved. Begich is leading Stevens by more than 1,000 votes, and the vote tallying is expected to be completed by Tuesday night.

McConnell’s decision to wait until December at the earliest to make committee decisions also could lead some Members to support postponing a vote. With Stevens’ race and races in Georgia and Minnesota still outstanding, McConnell has decided to postpone panel assignments indefinitely.

Additionally, a brewing partisan battle over the size and breakdown of committee budgets could delay committee assignments for the 111th Congress. The newly enlarged Senate Democratic majority is expected to push for a significantly larger piece of the budget pie, a move that McConnell is expected to resist.

Even though no final installments are expected for weeks or months, lawmakers this week will submit their three top choices for committee seats to leadership. McConnell is expected to at least begin considering those requests.

Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo.) would not say if there would be a Tuesday vote to oust Stevens from the party or how he would vote on the motion to give the 84-year-old the boot from the GOP. But Bond pointed out that votes are still being counted in the Alaska Senate race.

“The election is not over. The election is not over,” Bond said.