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The Next Senator from California?

GELFAND’S WORLD--Filed under counting your chickens before they are hatched, let’s consider the fact that Kamala Harris is highly likely to become the next Vice President of the United States of America as Joe Biden wins the presidency.

This means that she will have to resign her position as U.S. Senator from California. Who is going to replace her? (Photo above: ‘Senator’ Schiff?) 

Let’s count one other set of chickens before taking up this question. Let’s assume for the sake of argument that the Democrats pick up enough seats in the U.S. Senate to take the majority, which means in practice that the Democrats plus Independents (Bernie and the guy from Maine) make up at least 50 voting members, and Vice President Kamala Harris will provide the 51st vote. On the first day of the legislative session, the majority party can adopt rules that omit the filibuster, thereby allowing for a brief era of real progress. 

The mechanics of the process go like this: Ordinarily, the new Vice President will resign from her seat in the senate sometime after the election results become clear, but before her inauguration as VP. It’s likely that sometime in November, we will know for sure who the president and vice president are going to be, and also which party controls each house of congress. 

The congress (including the U.S. Senate) will convene well before the presidential inauguration. One reason for this is that the congress has certain Constitutionally required duties that need to be done before the inauguration, such as certifying the presidential and vice presidential election results.  

The other point, critically important if the Democrats flip the Senate this time around, is the organization of the Senate including the election of the President Pro Tem and – most important of all – the adoption of the rules. Thus on its first day in session, the senate could drop the filibuster rule, a change which would be important for many, many things. 

Sometime between all the election results becoming known and the opening day of both houses of congress, one other ritual event has to take place. Kamala Harris has to resign her position as U.S. Senator from California. Her seat will be open at that point. 

And then, the governor of California gets to appoint Kamala’s replacement, and that replacement will serve as California’s junior senator. 

So who should get the governor’s appointment to take Kamala Harris’s place? 

Let me offer a slightly off the wall suggestion here. It is not somebody who has been building up points among the party faithful by doling out funds, nor is it somebody who has avoided making enemies. But it is somebody who has demonstrated that he is whip smart and a true leader, at a time when the country and the senate can use someone like that. 

Adam Schiff 

His bona fides are clear and undeniable. He knows the law and he is well versed in the hazards this country faces on the international level. He might very well become a useful member of the senate’s intelligence committee. He would hit the ground running. 

I can only see one or two questions about this appointment. Would Schiff be willing to leave his position as chair of an important House committee to restart at the lowest level of seniority in the senate? One answer to this question might be that once the Trump crime syndicate leaves office, there is a lot less need to carry out the in-depth investigations that Schiff’s committee has had to carry out over the past couple of years. He could settle into a solid career in a place where he will actually have real power (eventually). 

The other question is whether governor Newsome would appoint him. After all, there are lots of reasons (mostly involving political favors) that go into such an appointment, and governors don’t get such chances very often. 

But it might be possible to develop a movement within the state of California calling on the governor to appoint Schiff. 

I believe that Schiff is a man of integrity. And this is critically important in the post-Trump era, where we will be trying to rebuild the structure of the United States government, and we will be hoping to reconstruct the image of the U.S. around the world. Considering the sorry record of the Republican-controlled senate these past years, it would be a real breath of fresh air to have a Democratically controlled senate with somebody of Adam Schiff’s caliber in a position of influence. 

Bombshell of the week 

A while back, I postulated that we would be hearing a new bombshell about Donald Trump’s presidency pretty much every week going up to the debates and ultimately the election. We just had another one. 

This time it involves one of Trump’s appointees. Let’s borrow a few words of explanation from Josh Marshall and the September 12 edition of his website Talking Points Memo.  

“Michael Caputo is a career Republican political operative with no medical expertise beyond an annual physical. He is best known as being an associate of convicted felon Roger Stone, with his own lengthy history working in Russia and as a suspect in the Russia probe. Trump installed Caputo as the acting director of communications for the Department of Health and Human Services in April. We learned yesterday* that he demanded and received the right to review and amend the CDC’s weekly mortality and morbidity reports, which are among the canonical public health and scientific reports of the US government, in order to make sure they don’t depart from President Trump’s COVID messaging.” 

*September 11, 2020 

In other words, we now have a purely political appointee taking charge of a critical scientific report that provided once-incontrovertible data on human disease within the United States. The only reason for a public relations hack to demand such control would be to change the numbers or, at the least, keep them under wraps. 

In other words, the Trump administration has made sure that it can at least slow down the apparent growth in the death curve from Covid-19. It’s an ugly possibility, but it is entirely consistent with everything else about this presidency. 

If Trump had thought that he would benefit from the numbers being higher, he would have arranged for them to be higher. But for reasons of his own, Trump decided to brag about how well he was doing in preventing the spread of the virus back in February of this year, and now he is stuck with trying to invent some imaginary gains to show how masterful he was. 

Of course it is way too late for any such thing. Our death toll will be above 200,000 before the November election. It is a big, round number, and there will be no way to avoid the public recognition of the “milestone” when it occurs. It will be sort of like the week that the Viet Nam War total hit 50,000, except that this time it will be four times that level. 

As many commenters have pointed out, we are now suffering one 9/11 death toll from Covid-19 nearly a couple of times a week. 

It’s therefore not surprising that this administration wants to take the daily and weekly death tolls off the front pages and the nightly news. But it is truly shameful that the way politics is done by this president is to pervert the honest statements of the nations’ top disease-fighting entities. 

Addendum 

Over the weekend, we had the ugly and startling image of some as yet unknown person walking up to a Sheriff’s car and shooting the two occupants. The victims were taken to a local hospital. At that hospital, a bizarre demonstration of a few people happened. They allegedly called for the wounded officers to die. While the L.A. County Sheriffs were dealing with the demonstrators, including the arrest of at least one, a reporter from KPCC approached with the apparent intent of doing a video of the arrest and scuffle. 

The Sheriff’s officers then yelled at the reporter and arrested her. Both sides – the arresting officers and the reporter – tell different stories, but we do have some of her video footage. There is a factual question as to whether the reporter identified herself as a reporter, and whether she was wearing an official reporter ID tag. The officers appear to be saying that she wasn’t, and that she did not identify herself, at least according to some television news accounts. 

I expect that this story will have legs, to use the jargon, and that it will be followed online.

 

(Bob Gelfand writes on science, culture, and politics for CityWatch. He can be reached at amrep535@sbcglobal.net)

-cw