Why the swearing-in date matters

WHY THE SWEARING-IN DATE MATTERS…. When Sen.-elect Scott Brown (R) won his special election in Massachusetts on Jan. 19, it started a routine certification process. Brown personally suggested to the Senate that he could be sworn in on Thursday, Feb. 11, and the leadership agreed.

In the interim, state officials would approve Brown’s certification, and the senator-elect could put together a staff and find a place to live. Appointed Sen. Paul Kirk (D) would continue to serve for another week.

Today, Brown changed course and demanded to be sworn in tomorrow. It seems Senate Republicans have some obstruction plans, and don’t want to allow the chamber to function for eight more days.

“[The Democratic majority is] moving forward with controversial issues and nominations. These are votes that where his vote is the deciding one,” an outside Brown adviser said.

“This man is now the certified winner in Massachusetts. The question is whether he’s sworn in or not. There are real optical concerns about them moving forward with a nominee — Craig Becker — who they would in 48 hours not be able to move.”

Becker is an NRLB nominee who is seen as too pro-labor.

Yes, this is mainly about the National Labor Relations Board, and Republicans’ desire to block President Obama’s union ally from joining the panel. If Becker is subjected to a vote, he’ll be confirmed, so Brown needs to rush, so the GOP minority can block the vote from happening.

The Democratic leadership has been surprisingly accommodating of Brown’s demands, despite the agreed-upon date, and will apparently seat him tomorrow, officially giving the Republican caucus 41 seats and the power to block just about everything, including Craig Becker’s NRLB nomination.

That’s awfully gracious of Democrats considering that Senate Republicans blocked Al Franken for seven months and threatened to “blow up the Senate” if the Minnesotan was seated ahead of schedule.

As for Becker, it’s unlikely he’ll be voted on tomorrow, but there’s always the possibility of a recess appointment later this month.

Update: Senate sources remind me that Franken’s certification was held in limbo during the lawsuits, while Brown’s papers are in order as of tomorrow. It’s a fair point.