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Blago & Reid Play Chicken January 2, 2009

Posted by Kate Ryan in Democrats, National Politics, US Senate.
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Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich
Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich

In a defiant flip of the bird to the powers-that-be in the United States Senate, Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich has appointed 71-year old former State Comptroller Roland Burris to fill the seat vacated by President-Elect Obama.  The megalomaniacal chief executive is daring Senate majority leader Harry Reid not to seat Burris, an African-American, as Reid has sworn.  Burris, of course, insists that he is legitimately appointed and vows to fight to be seated.  The stage is being set for a constitutional show-down that could have far-reaching implications.

The US Constitution is pretty clear on the whole issue.  To be qualified, a Senator must be a resident of the state he or she will represent, a US citizen for nine years, and a minimum of thirty years old.  That’s it – all you need to be qualified for service.  In the event of a vacancy, the Constitution allows for the governor of each state to appoint a successor until an election may be held.  It makes no provisions for appointments by allegedly “dirty” chief executives. 

This pissing contest between Reid and Blagojevich is a result of Blago’s arrest on federal corruption charges December 9th.  US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald apparently has Blagojevich on tape “selling” the vacated Senate seat.  He apparently says that the seat is “like gold” and that he’s “not going to give it away for nothing.” 

The Senate immediately asked Blago to not make any appointment.  Their hope, of course, was that Blagojevich would resign in shame and Lt Gov Pat Quinn would take over and make the appointment.  Harry Reid didn’t figure on Blago sticking around – and he certainly never thought he would be in this position.  Now, his hasty words have painted him into a corner, and he’s being forced into Blago’s game of chicken.

I don’t think Reid has a leg to stand on.  The Congress attempted not to seat Adam Clayton Powell of New York, tainted by corruption charges, in 1967 and was challenged in the Supreme Court.  By a vote of 8-1 the court ruled that in deciding whether to exclude a duly-elected member, Congress is limited to considering only whether that member meets the very minimal requirements for office set out in the Constitution.  Though Burris will be appointed – not elected – several constitutional scholars believe the precedent will hold if this goes back to court. 

By all accounts, Burris is a fine person – and would be an able Senator.  He is not one of the potential Senate candidates mentioned in the Blagojevich tapes.  He has been a donor to Blagojevich – but has also been a donor to Obama and Jesse Jackson, Jr.  The aggregate amounts of his donations to Blago are pretty small potatoes.  He would keep the sole African-American seat in the Senate if he is allowed to serve.  That by itself should be an important consideration for Harry Reid.  It wouldn’t look so good to try and shut out a person of color when he would be only one of 100.

It’s also not good politically to refuse to seat Burris.  If this drama with Burrises appointment is allowed to continue, Illinois will not be fully represented in the US Senate for a very long time.  Blagojevich is fighting the corruption charges and one has to wonder at the strength of the federal case as Fitzgerald just asked for 90 more days to indict.  Though Blago can still be impeached by Illinois, that may be less likely if the federal probe is weak (or even perceived to be weak).  President-Elect Obama will need a full complement of Democratic Senators when he begins to flesh out his governing agenda.  The Senate needs to be locked down.

Reid should back off and allow Burris to be seated.  The people of Illinois will have a chance to decide for themselves in 2010 – when the seat is up for reelection.  Who knows?  Blago might still be the Governor even then…

 

 

 

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Comments»

Kate Ryan - January 7, 2009

I have to say that I have always had an affection for in-your-face politicians with skills for self-aggrandizement. Blago fits the bill on that one! Thanks for your comment. Come visit again!

1. coffee fiend - January 7, 2009

Blagojevich has been so successful at making himself and his office look ridiculous that about a million people are now able to remember and maybe even spell his crazy name — that’s sort of like an accomplishment, right?


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