Politics

Political Stunt Delays Senate Business

U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell made the following statement on the Senate floor Monday regarding the majority’s efforts to vote on political stunt at the expense of immigration, energy reforms:

Madam President, there are four ways to become a Senator: by appointment, by special election, by winning an open seat, or by defeating an incumbent.

My good friend from New York, who has been speaking, and I came to the Senate the same way: by defeating an incumbent. That way is often the hardest, so I am sure the Senator remembers his 1998 Senate race against our former colleague, Senator Al D’Amato.

It was quite a race. The Senator from New York surely remembers one of his criticisms of Senator D’Amato: that Senator D’Amato had, in essence, abused his office.

My friend from New York said it was improper for Senator D’Amato to use his official Senate position to investigate the former first lady while Senator D’Amato was also chairman of his party’s Senate campaign committee, the NRSC. My friend from New York said, in referring to Senator D’Amato:

Do you know what he did right after he got elected? He became chairman of the national Senate Republican Campaign Committee, the most blatantly political position you can hold. Then…..he embarked on his partisan and political inquisition of the First Family.

According to the New York Times, the thing about Senator D’Amato’s activities that my friend from New York appeared to find particularly galling was that his behavior was motivated by reelection concerns.

Given the two hats my friend from New York currently wears, you can see why I obviously found the standard he set out in 1998 to be quite intriguing.

We all talk to the media–some of us more than others–and we may make offhand comments we later regret, especially in the heat of a campaign. But the Senator from New York thought his conflict of interest charge was so important that he ran a television ad about it. The Buffalo News reported:

Among the blizzard of attack ads running this weekend is one in which Schumer charged that D’Amato used the Banking Committee …to mount a ‘vicious’ partisan attack on first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton three years ago.

Now, New York is certainly an expensive media market. Yet because my good friend from New York was so concerned with Senator D’Amato’s chairing the NRSC while he was investigating the First Lady, he spent a lot of money urging New Yorkers to remove Senator D’Amato from office. So he must have really thought it was a serious conflict for someone to lead his party’s campaign committee while also leading an investigation into an administration of the opposite party.

How times change, Madam President. Now my good friend is leading his party’s principal campaign committee for the Senate, the DSCC. At the same time, he is leading an official Senate investigation into the Justice Department.

He chairs the Judiciary Subcommittee on Administrative Oversight and the Courts.

The media widely reports that he has been tapped by the majority leader to lead this investigation. The piece in the National Journal calls him the Democratic “point man” on this particular subject–our good friend from New York.

He usually has chaired one of the numerous hearings the committee has already held on this subject. To borrow from the National Journal, you could say he is ubiquitous when it comes to this subject.

The campaign committee he chairs has repeatedly used material derived from his investigation for partisan campaign purposes.

He held a press conference before the ink was barely dry on the Schumer resolution. There, he predicted, amazingly, that we would go to this resolution immediately after immigration. And it looks as if the majority leader filed cloture on immigration to make sure we kept the schedule of my good friend from New York.

Last, but not least, he is the author of the resolution we will be voting on in a little while.

So I find myself perplexed about the application in these circumstances of the standard the Senator from New York set out in 1998. We could call it the Schumer standard.

It seems to me that Senator D’Amato’s position in 1998 is like the current position of my friend from New York in all material respects.

So given that the Senator from New York has said it is a serious conflict of interest for someone to lead his party’s campaign committee while he uses his official position to lead an investigation of the administration of the opposite party, I cannot understand why it is not a conflict of interest for my friend from New York to lead his current investigation of the Justice Department.

And given that the Senator from New York wanted Senator D’Amato removed from office under similar circumstances, I also cannot understand why my good friend should not at least recuse himself–recuse himself–from the official investigation of the Justice Department that he himself has been leading.

In conclusion, I hope it is not the case that our friend from New York wrote this resolution and pushed the Senate to spend its valuable time on this particular resolution for partisan political purposes. And if he did not do that, then I trust we will not see the campaign committee he is chairing using the Senate’s vote on this resolution–his own resolution–for campaign purposes.

Madam President, I yield the floor.

Sign Up