Sanders Threatens Floor Fight over Convention Committees

Bernie Sanders addresses a town hall campaign event in Welch, W.Va. on Thursday.

Sen. Bernie Sanders said he will lead a floor fight at this summer’s Democratic National Convention if the party does not put his supporters on key committees.

In a letter, he told Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz that he suspects she is trying to pack these panels with backers of front-runner Hillary Clinton.

“If the process is set up to produce an unfair, one-sided result, we are prepared to mobilize our delegates to force as many votes as necessary to amend the platform and rules on the floor of the convention,” Mr. Sanders wrote.

With little chance to win the Democratic presidential nomination, the Sanders campaign is increasingly focused on winning as many delegates as possible in hopes of pressing his agenda at the July gathering in Philadelphia. There are three key committees: rules, credentials and platform, in addition to a 15-member platform drafting committee, and he wants equal representation on all of them.

Mr. Sanders said that his campaign had submitted more than 40 people but only three of them had been chosen for the three panels, and none to the rules committee. Each committee has members elected in the states and others handpicked by the DNC chief.

“If we are to have a unified party in the fall, no matter who wins the nomination, we cannot have a Democratic National Convention in which the views of millions of people who participated in the Democratic nominating process are unrepresented in the committee membership appointed by you, the Chair,” Mr. Sanders wrote.

This is just the latest dispute between the Sanders campaign and the DNC. The campaign has accused Ms. Wasserman Schultz of creating primary debate schedule to benefit Mrs. Clinton. In December, the DNC found that the Sanders campaign had improperly accessed Clinton voter files in a shared database and cut off the campaign’s access to its own filed. That prompted a short-lived lawsuit abandoned after the DNC restored his access.

Mr. Sanders wrote that Ms. Wasserman Schultz told him she would consider allowing the Sanders and Clinton campaigns each to submit names and that she would then choose some from each list, and then add others of her own choice. He said that was not sufficient and that the Clinton and Sanders campaigns should each be able to appoint an equal number.

He added that the chairs of the Rules and Platform committees are “aggressive attack surrogates” for Mrs. Clinton. That’s a reference to Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy, who will co-chair the platform committee, and former Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts, who will co-chair the rules committee.

He said that he and his backers have no confidence that either of them “will conduct committee proceeding in an even-handed manner.”

In an interview, Mr. Frank said he was not aware of any contentious issues—or, really, any issues at all–that his rules committee will consider that would impact this year’s convention. He said he would press for some changes for the future, such as the role of super delegates, though he said he does not think those issues are under his committee’s jurisdiction. He said he is still investigating exactly what his committee’s jurisdiction is.

But he said that it is fair for Mr. Sanders to be represented, certainly on the platform committees, where issues will be debated.

“I would advise Debbie there should be some compromise on that,” he said. “I don’t think it will make any difference but I’m not strongly attached to the current situation.”

He added that he would step down from the committee chairmanship if he thought there would be a rules issue that would affect the outcome of the nomination or threatened party unification.

“If my being chairman of the rules committee becomes a kind of serious obstacle to getting everybody to vote against Donald Trump, I guess I would say defeating Donald Trump does seem to be more important than me being chairman of a committee that doesn’t pay anything and doesn’t have any real public policy power,” he said.

DNC spokesman Luis Miranda responded to the Sanders letter by saying the DNC is treating everybody fairly in drafting the platform.

“Because the Party’s platform is a statement of our values, the DNC is committed to an open, inclusive and representative process,” he said in a statement. “Both of our campaigns will be represented on the Drafting Committee, and just as we did in 2008 and 2012, the public will have opportunities to participate.”

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