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Rowdy DNC Meeting Under Way

Florida and Michigan lawmakers appeared before the Democratic National Committee’s rulemaking panel on Saturday, arguing for the reinstatement of their states’ disqualified delegates in the fierce Democratic nominating contest as the periodically rowdy party faithful looked on from the packed Marriott convention hall. Speaking as the last of the morning’s protesters scattered outside the hotel, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) told the DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee that “we are all here to give voice to the people of Florida” and encouraged adopting a deal that would count all of the votes of “superdelegates” and 50 percent of the state’s “pledged” delegates. “Like all Americans, Floridians are mainly concerned about the war in Iraq, the sagging economy … Floridians are also interested in having their votes count,” Nelson told the panel. “My preferred solution [is] that this panel seat the entire Florida delegation … [but] at a minimum, the Florida Democratic party [should] seat the maximum number of delegates allowed under the rules. “These voters violated no rules, committed no crime … yet they are the ones that will be punished,” he added. “In Florida, we’re pretty sensitive about having our votes taken away.” The DNC had warned Democrats in both states that moving their primaries to the first months of 2008 would jeopardize the seating of their delegations at the party’s August nominating convention in Denver. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) won primary contests in both Florida and Michigan, although Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) did not appear on the Democratic ballot in Michigan. Although both Clinton and Obama originally agreed with the DNC to shun the states’ delegates, Clinton is now arguing that they must be seated because such a move is crucial to her winning the nomination. On Saturday, Rep. Robert Wexler (D-Fla.) endorsed a plan for Florida’s delegation proposed by DNC committeeman Jon Ausman. The deal would seat 92 pledged delegates and all of the state’s superdelegates, netting Clinton 19 delegates overall. At times whipping the crowd into a frenzy, the Palm Beach-area lawmaker said Clinton violated a DNC pact not to campaign in the state, a deal to which he said Obama stuck. Wexler appeared before the panel on behalf of the Obama campaign. “Both Sens. Clinton and Obama agreed not to campaign,” Wexler said. “The Obama campaign respected this Rules committee. He was not as well-known as Sen. Clinton.” Still, despite the outcome, Wexler told the panel that “we cannot reverse the fact that this election was held months ago,” but he said the time to close the book on the dispute was at hand. “We must find a way as Democrats…to resolve this situation, so Florida can participate in this nominating process,” he continued. “It’s time for the campaigns and the Rules committee to reach a dignified resolution.” Wexler’s comments dovetailed with DNC Chairman Howard Dean’s opening remarks at the Washington, D.C., gathering that threatened to last all of a stormy Saturday. The former Vermont governor earlier in the day touched on the toll of the protracted – and often bloody – Clinton-Obama nominating contest, a fight that may come to end within days depending on the outcome of the weekend’s marathon session. “This has been a very long and hard-fought race,” Dean said. “I’m not going to gloss over the challenges of an extended primary.” In arguing for the adoption of a compromise plan in his state, Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) also echoed Dean’s suggestions of collateral damage in the primary, endorsing the use of a complex formula in Michigan that would take into account poll-goers who voted “uncommitted” in the state’s Jan. 15 primary. The Levin-endorsed deal would net Clinton six overall delegates. “Let me get to bottom line: The Democratic Party needs unity in this battle,” Levin said. “The Michigan Party has achieved unity … we’re asking you to preserve it.” But according to Levin, Obama proxy ex-Rep. David Bonior (D-Mich.) and former Michigan Gov. James Blanchard (D), who will argue Clinton’s side, are expected to propose alternative delegate allocation plans this afternoon. The campaigns’ proposals would net Clinton between zero and 18 overall delegates.

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