Camps Face Off at Key Democratic Meeting

The Democratic National Committee's Rules and Bylaws Committee meets Saturday to resolve the dispute over the Florida and Michigan delegations to the Democratic nominating-convention this summer. Both states had held their primaries earlier this year discounted for violating DNC party election rules.

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GUY RAZ, host:

From NPR News, it's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Guy Raz in for Andrea Seabrook.

Big drama today in the battle to seat the delegations of Florida and Michigan at this summer's Democratic convention. The party's rules committee has been meeting all day here Washington. It's trying to figure out how to apportion delegate votes from Florida and Michigan.

Those states violated party rules by moving their primaries up and were barred from the convention. Advocates and activists from both the Obama and Clinton campaigns made their cases today in front of the committee. On hand for it all has been NPR's David Greene who's been following the campaign all year. Hi, David.

DAVID GREENE: Hey, Guy.

RAZ: So, just over five hours after the meeting, before they broke for lunch at mid-afternoon, what have we heard so far?

GREENE: We've heard a lot in these five hours, and it's been five hours without so much as a bathroom break. The committee sitting around this U-shaped table and just talking and talking. And the way this worked, there were petitions coming from people in each state from Michigan and Florida asking for ways to reinstate their delegates.

And we heard a lot of different arguments. The campaign had some people coming in and speaking on their behalf, on behalf of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, arguments over the seating of all the delegates to cutting the delegates in half; the arguments for giving Hillary Clinton this many more, that many more. So, a lot of different messages, a lot of spirited debate. It's been quite a day.

RAZ: Okay. Just for the record, is anyone arguing that these states shouldn't be allowed at all to come to the convention?

GREENE: No, and that seems to be the one thing people all agree on is the party and everyone in this room really wants to find some sort of resolution that won't leave the voters of Michigan and Florida basically feeling dissed this fall. They want to find a way to make the voters feel like they played a role in the primary season and that they feel that the party will be better off if these states are somehow represented. But, again, a lot of different spirited arguments about how many votes and how to seat these delegates. So, we're far from resolution at this point.

RAZ: Well, what's the maximum number of delegates Hillary Clinton, for example, could get from all this and so in Florida?

GREENE: In Florida it would be 38. And that would mean if the rules and bylaws committee basically allocated the delegates based on the voting in the state. And, of course, Clinton won't that primary. What probably seems more likely, and even the Clinton campaign seems resigned, is that the delegates will be cut in half and seated. That's one option that's on the table.

That would mean that Hillary Clinton gains 19 delegates. Now, that's not insignificant and, you know, it's basically what she gains from her wins in both Ohio and Pennsylvania combined sum. But that seems like one likely scenario at this point for Florida.

RAZ: Is the Obama campaign willing to accept that.

GREENE: It seems that they are, and one reason that they are is there's a DNC, a Democratic Party, rule that says that the state has to be punished by at least cutting their delegates in half. And the Obama campaign is basically saying, well, if that's the rule that's something that we could live by when it comes to Florida.

RAZ: Well, why would he do that?

GREENE: Well, you know, he can because he has a delegate lead. And, in fact, no matter what happens today Hillary Clinton is probably still going to be behind by a number of delegates, a pretty sizeable number, so he's able to do that. It also sends a message of, you know, I want the party to be at peace as we go forward. So, little risk for him.

RAZ: David, what about Michigan? Is that a different situation?

GREENE: Michigan is a totally different situation. The reason is Barack Obama and many of the other candidates - John Edwards as well, Joe Biden - decided not to be on the ballot in that state. And so we had a primary, Hillary Clinton won; second place was just uncommitted. So, Barack Obama officially wasn't even a candidate. So, a lot of people feel that that was a tremendously flawed election.

And Hillary Clinton is arguing that the delegates should be seated based on the voting in that state and that these uncommitted delegates, you know, based on the people who voted for uncommitted should not go to Barack Obama, which is a real point of contention this afternoon.

Barack Obama is basically saying, look, this is a bad election. Let's just seat all the delegates, let's just split them in half and move forward. So, Michigan has been a real divisive point today.

RAZ: And it's possible that one of the two states, or the campaigns, could actually appeal all of this anyway.

GREENE: We'll see, and probably Michigan seems more likely if they were to kind of punt on to another day. It might go to the credentials committee, which would be taking it to another body. And since a lot of people agree that there were so many problems with that primary seems like that's a possibility, but they're hoping for a resolution today at least.

RAZ: Well, David, thanks so much.

GREENE: Always a pleasure, Guy.

RAZ: That's NPR's David Greene.

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