Female Senators Battle to Join Leadership

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While the three tightly-knit female Legislators in the Liberian Senate are reportedly campaigning for the election of a mature President Pro Tempore from among the ‘Old Senators,’ they have ignited a joint crusade of their own to vie for powerful committee chairmanships, according to an inside source.

In accordance with the standing rules of the Senate, the Secretary of the Liberian Senate last week announced to Plenary the vacancies for the chairs of three Statutory Committees, namely, the Committees on Executive; Ways, Means, Finance & Budget; and Rules, Order & Administration.

The Secretary of the Senate also announced the vacancy of the position of President Pro Tempore.

These vacancies came about when former Senators Clarice Jah, the Chair on Executive; Lahai Lansanah, chair on Rules, Order & Administration; and Sumo G. Kupee, Chair on Ways, Means, Finance & Budget, were all defeated in the recent Special Senatorial election.

Former President Pro Tempore Gbehzohngar Findley also lost his seat in that election, after just serving at the helm for three years.

The announcement of the vacancies by the Secretary was done under the Senate Rule 19, which deals with the suspension and removal of the President Pro Tempore and other officers of the Senate.

Having fulfilled the requirement to announce the senate vacancies in accordance with Section 2b,  elections to fill the vacancy of Pro Tempore and other declared vacant posts are required to be conducted in plenary within the period of 30 calendar days.

According to Rule 43, besides the President Pro Tempore, the following  chairs of the eight  committees are members of the Senate’s leadership: Executive; Foreign Affairs; Judiciary, Human Rights, Claims and Petitions and also Ways, Means, Finance and Budget. The remaining Committees are Rules, Order and Administration; National Defense, Intelligence, Security and Veteran Affairs; Gender, Health and Social Affairs, Women and Children Affairs and Internal Affairs, Reconciliation and Governance.

Senator Chief Jewel Howard Taylor

The two-term Bong County Senator, Chief Jewel Howard Taylor, in 2009 was narrowly beaten by Gbehzohngar Findley in the President Pro Tempore race. Upon her re-election in 2014, she reaffirmed her interest in the highest elected seat at the Liberian Senate, but later declined and expressed her interest in the chair of the Committee on Ways, Means, Finance and Budget.

The Bong County lawmaker, National Patriotic Party (NPP), is the chairperson on the Autonomous Commission and member on four committees: Judiciary; Ways, Means, Finance and Budget; Gender, Health and Development; as well as Education and Public Administration.

Although she could not be reached up to press time yesterday, a member of her staff has confirmed the senator’s interest in the chairmanship of the Ways, Means, Finance and Budget Committee.

According to reports, the Bong County lawmaker is expected to be heavily challenged by the Acting Chairman of that committee, Sen. G. Alphonso Gaye.

“If she is elected, it definitely means she will join the team of the leadership,” her staffer said.

Senator Geraldine Doe-Sherif

For her part, the Senate Majority Leader Geraldine Doe-Sherif, who was elected to head the Majority Whip in late 2014, and who has been in the Senate since 2005, has been tapped to contest the chair for the Executive Committee.

She is a former chair of the main opposition party, the Congress for Democratic Change (CDC), who later resigned from the party and currently operates as an independent Senator.

 Besides being the Chair for the Majority Whip, she is the chairperson on the Committee on Transport and the Co-Chair on Health, Gender, Children and Social Welfare.

When contacted over the weekend via text message, she denied being interested in the Executive Committee chairmanship. A colleague of hers, who requested to remain anonymous, told the Daily Observer, however that the bloc is backing Sen. Sheriff for the third top position in the Liberian Senate.

"We will ensure she gets in the leadership because she is our Majority Bloc Leader," the colleague said.

Senator Nyonblee Karnga-Lawrence

Reports on which leadership committee exactly the Liberty Party (LP) Senator from Grand Bassa County is eyeing remain unclear. Some say she might contest the chairmanship of the Committee on Rules, Order and Administration, while   others believe she might seek chairmanship of the Internal Affairs, Reconciliation and Governance.

The current Chairman, Armah Z. Jallah, is expected to quit the chairmanship of Internal Affairs, Reconciliation and Governance to contest for the position of President Pro Tempore.

The other two interested candidates for the position of the Pro Tempore, Cllr. Joseph Nagbe of the Committee on Judiciary, Human Rights, Claims and Petitions and Sen. Oscar Cooper of the Public Works Committee, would also resign.

Nevertheless, both committees for which Senator Lawrence may contest are part of the leadership.

Sen. Lawrence is a member of seven committees: Ways, Means, Finance and Budget; Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries; Defense, Intelligence, Security and Veteran Affairs; Maritime; Commerce, Industry and Trade; as well as Transport and Executive.

When contacted, Sen. Lawrence said she had not yet made up her mind to contest for any chairmanship.

“I have not decided… to contest for any Committee,” Sen. Lawrence said.

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