New excuse for not seating Brown: Biden's out of town

The excuses for Democrats not to seat Scott Brown if he wins today’s special election to replace Ted Kennedy in the Senate have become rather threadbare.  As CQ Politics reports, now Democrats insist that they can’t give Brown the oath of office until VP Joe Biden, also President of the Senate, is available to give the oath of office to Brown.  The only trouble with that excuse is that it’s flatly false:

The office of Majority Leader Harry Reid says there will be no attempt to swear in a new senator until Massachusetts gets all the right paperwork to Washington. Appointed Sen. Paul G. Kirk Jr. , a Democrat, in the meantime will keep the job and cast the votes. “When there is a certified winner in Massachusetts, the Senate has received appropriate papers, and the Vice President is available, the successor to Sens. Kennedy and Kirk will be sworn in,” said Regan Lachapelle, a Reid, D-Nev., spokeswoman.

Actually, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. isn’t essential to the process, even though he is president of the Senate; there’s plenty of precedent for a swearing-in to be handled by substitutes.

What’s next?  Do they expect the Senate dog to eat the paperwork, too?

Brown supporters have pointed out that the House had no problem rushing Niki Tsongas into her seat after a special election win.  Democrats needed Tsongas to override a veto, and so allowed her to take the oath of office with a statement from Deval Patrick and William Galvin that she had “appeared” to win the election.  However, CQ notes that the Senate and House have different rules — and that Republicans demanded that Harry Reid wait to seat Al Franken until he had received the proper certification, which he did.  That seems to be the clearer precedent, and is certainly a fair point — assuming Massachusetts doesn’t delay certification.

It will take about 15 days at the longest for certification to occur, especially if the margin of victory makes recounts or challenges moot.  First, let’s see if Brown wins, and the margin of victory if he does.  Anything above two points would mean certification should be a pro forma exercise, and an inauguration ceremony just as routine.  The excuse-making has become rather pathetic.