Senate chambers empty as Ford hearing draws crowd

Lieutenant Governor John Wilder and four others were the only ones to warm seats in the Tennessee State Senate Wednesday. Many others were at federal court in Memphis, even though they didn't have to be.

"Legally, no one was required to be here but four of us who were subpoenaed," says Senator Steve Cohen, Democrat of Memphis.

Technically, all of the others could have stayed in Nashville to continue their special session on ethics.

"I wanted to be here to hear the arguments--after all, we are going to have to go back and finish up this business," says Sen. Diane Black, Republican of Hendersonville.

"Some couldn't be--but those who could were here and I think that is very important," says Republican Sen. Curtis Person of Memphis.

Republican leader Ron Ramsey cites solidarity among his party.

"Three of our colleagues were subpoenaed and I thought we should be here for their support," says Ramsey.

Cohen suspects Republicans are thinking more about politics than moral support.

"Right now, the Republicans have a numerical majority but not a working majority--and if they could change one vote they'd have a working majority," says Cohen.

Subpoenaed or not, Republicans consider themselves co-defendants in this case since they voted to oust Ophelia Ford.

"Obviously, I stated on the floor a week ago, if I had my druthers I would be in Nasvhille representing my constituents there," says Republican Sen. Mark Norris of Collierville.

"Hopefully, we will have session tomorrow--my fellow Senators will go back to Nashville and convene at 9:00 in the morning," says Cohen.

Senators tell Action News 5 that taxpayers did not have to foot the bill for their day-trip to Memphis. They say they don't get to claim expenses when they're not working in Nashville.