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  • Dec 7th, 2017 @ 3:44pm

    Re: Re: Process notes

    Agreed. Another group that supported and prospered under the seniority system was southern members. By reelecting members (House and Senate) decade after decades, southerners gained more power in Congress.

    I offered some explanation of who supports seniority and why in my post because I assumed that Techdirt readers might lean meritocratic generally, especially in this case when (less-senior) Lofgren's positions are much closer to Techdirt's.

    The seniority system has some advantages, such as reducing conflicts, since members just have to hang in there and wait their turn at the top if they last that long. The seniority system also may help reduce the role of money somewhat (from obscene to outrageous).

    On the other hand, sometimes non-senior members really have better ideas and more talent, which may be valuable to a political party, and the country.

    Finally, in the mid-1990s House Republicans imposed three-term limits on their Chairs and Ranking members (as committee leaders, not as members of Congress). Some in Washington, DC say it makes them less effective but I think it may be a good idea. Anyway, House Democrats never adopted such limits.

  • Dec 7th, 2017 @ 10:35am

    Process notes

    As a former congressional staffer, I offer a few notes:

    Who decides? All House Democrats vote on who the ranking member will be. (It's one of the reforms from the 1970s, when power of the leadership was reduced.) These tend to be insider elections so lobbying your member of Congress may have limited utility, but can't hurt.

    When? Politico: "election...expected the week of Dec. 18."

    What is default criterion? Seniority (time on the committee). Nadler is senior to Lofgren, for what that's worth. It used to be rare to challenge the senior member of one's party for Chair or Ranking Member. There is still a strong bias for seniority. Understandably, groups like the Congressional Black Caucus and others tend be be strong defenders of seniority because seniority has served CBC members well.

    What are other criteria members consider? In recent decades it is more common for a non-senior member to challenge. Other considerations when selecting a Ranking Member may include: which one raises the most money for the party (important), is most in tune with the party's positions, comes from the same state or region, and/or has a fatal flaw. Ultimately, these elections are often personal and based on human relationships between members.

    Process for more than two candidates? Right now it's only Nadler and Lofgren (Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee would not win but could run to make a point, though she's CBC member so perhaps not.) If there were more than two candidates, then members vote in multiple rounds, dropping the lowest-scoring candidate each time. So, when holding elections among themselves, members of Congress never have the "spoiler" problem they inflict on regular voters (and which could be solved by Rank Choice Voting aka Instant Runoff Voting, if you will permit me the off-topic plug for one of my per reform proposals).