Monday, May 24, 2004

Under orders? 

While driving down to the Northern Alliance radio show Saturday, I heard David Strom interview Cheri Pierson Yecke, recently Borked education commissioner. In the discussion of her Borking, both referred to a meeting between Yecke and Senate DFL leader Dean Johnson, in which Johnson said he had assured her that the confirmation vote would not be taken unless he was sure of passage. John Jordan comments on this as well. According to this report filed by an AP stringer last week (could only find it with the Google cache):
Although she knew some Democrats opposed her positions, Yecke was surprised by her ouster, in part because she said Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson had promised not to bring her confirmation to a floor vote unless it would pass.

"I felt ... cautiously optimistic going into it because we had received commitments from some Democrats that they would vote for me," she said. "We were shocked, shocked. Again, it's an issue of integrity. There were people who gave their word."

Johnson, in response, said he had met with Yecke about three weeks ago and indicated to her that it didn't seem reasonable to take her confirmation to the floor if it would be rejected, anyway. "It was almost an invitation for her to go out and talk to senators and round up the votes," The Willmar DFLer said.

Yecke said Democratic Sens. Jim Vickerman of Tracy and Tom Bakk of Cook and Independent Sen. Sheila Kiscaden of Rochester, a former Republican who now caucuses with Democrats, pledged their support and then backed her. Sen. Tom Saxhaug, a Democrat from Grand Rapids, also had committed to support Yecke but was in the hospital and didn't vote, she said.
So what happened? One story is that Johnson was offered a "logroll" -- allow the six votes for Yecke's confirmation and he would return Republican votes on the bonding bill. When the bonding bill died, that offer was no longer valid. Even if, as Senator Divisive suggested after the vote that "Some members wanted to send a message that we were sticking together," that seems a pretty high price to pay.

The StarTribune suggests another explanation.

Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson said after the session ended last week that DFLers had deprived Republicans of two things sought by the White House or by national GOP leaders.

One GOP setback came with the rejection of Yecke. Johnson said DFLers have reason to believe that she was a rising conservative star in Virginia and the Republican National Committee had a hand in her being appointed.


"We've said all along that the Yecke appointment was a link to the White House," he said.
(The other was the gay marriage referendum.) If so, making her a martyr is likely to backfire.