From The Hill on Wednesday:
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) wants to hold Rules Committee hearings in September on the presidential primary process, an effort that could remind the public of her party’s contentious nomination battle just two months before the general election.
Feinstein, chairwoman of the committee, says the hearings will be limited and won’t be conducted in a way that diverts Democrats’ focus from the general election.
Apparently there’s no objection to DiFi’s plans for a Rules Committee hearing on the presidential primary process as Jim Manley, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), said “the party’s leadership knows of Feinstein’s plans and does not oppose them.”
The hearings would focus on the question of whether a uniform primary process should be in place instead of a patchwork of different rules in different states regarding delegate distribution.
They could also include a bill by Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) that would abolish the Electoral College system in presidential elections and replace it with a direct popular vote.
Senator Dianne Feinstein said:
“I’m very concerned that every state has a different set of rules. The parties have different rules, too. Republicans have winner-take-all, which means they finish about halfway through the primary season and their candidate is free and clear, and Democrats go through this convoluted, difficult process. And it means that somebody who won the popular vote can lose the delegate vote.”
Initially Feinstein had planned to hold hearing on the topic on July 9 but that hearing was postponed, a Rules Committee officials said, “because they are trying to accommodate leaders from the Democratic and Republican national committees in the hearings.”
Since those leaders are focused on the upcoming conventions, Feinstein said, it is likely the hearings will be held sometime in September, after the conventions.
Feinstein also “dismissed the suggestion that the hearings could upset Democratic Party leaders who would prefer to focus on the general election instead of the party’s fractious primary between Sens. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.).”
“How is a simple hearing by the Rules Committee that much of a distraction? We won’t do it in that manner, where that will be the case,” she said. “There are big constitutional problems that we’ve got to clear up. I don’t think it’s going to be a blockbuster hearing, other than being informative for us. But there’s a lot of interest in this body to do it.”
Feinstein said the committee has only limited authority to look into the process anyway and waiting until after the general election is risky because of the chance of a drawn-out coda. She also emphasized that the hearing won’t trigger any immediate changes.
“After you go through the general election, if there’s another Florida or something, that pushes it off,” she said. “This hearing isn’t going to be dispositive of anything. It’s to hear, to take testimony. And there will be more than one hearing. It’s a beginning.”
It is a “beginning” as Feinstein says and it’s great to hear that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is not interested in getting the middle of process. It’s clear our election system needs a major overhaul. We’ve seen far too much evidence of that in recent years. Feinstein’s “beginning” may not be enough for some election reform advocates, but it’s a start. Stay tuned… We’ll keep an eye on what develops.