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Hell, No, He Won’t Go January 7, 2009

Posted by Kate Ryan in Barack Obama, Constitution, Democrats, National Politics, US Senate.
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Senate Hopeful Roland Burris
Senate Hopeful Roland Burris

Intensifying the constitutional drama unfolding in Washington, Roland Burris, the Rod Blagojevich Senate appointee from Illinois, presented himself yesterday to be sworn in.  In a piece of high political theater, Burris was turned away by Nancy Erickson, Secretary of the Senate.  Erickson explained that Burris’ paperwork was not in order – it lacked an endorsement by the Illinois Secretary of State.  Not pressing the point that the Secretary of State for Illinois has no constitutional veto power over the Governor’s appointment authority, Burris quietly left and met reporters outside the Capitol.   Appearing tired and beleaguered, Burris vowed to fight.  He has a legal challenge pending in Illinois and is considering a federal (Supreme Court) challenge.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has vowed, as late as Sunday, that Burris will not be seated.  Though he expresses respect and admiration for Burris, he maintains that since Governor Blagojevich is tainted by corruption charges, his appointment of Burris is tainted.  In a late-breaking development yesterday, however, some key Senate Democrats have indicated a compromise is in order.  California Democrat Dianne Feinstein, chair of the Senate Rules Committee, has advised that Burris be seated.  Feinstein told reporters, “If you don’t seat Mr. Burris, it has ramifications for gubernatorial appointments all over America.  Mr. Burris is a senior, experienced politician. He has been attorney general, he has been controller, and he is very well-respected. I am hopeful that this will be settled.”   Burris has a meeting with Reid today to discuss the situation.

Most analysts agree that Reid’s offer of compromise will request a pledge by Burris not to seek reelection in 2010.  Burris has been asked in several interviews if that is a condition that he could agree to.  His answers are, invariably, no.  Burris has stated that he has no idea what he will want to do, or what conditions will warrant in 2010, and to make such a promise would be hypocritical.  Basically, his position is that the Senate will have to take him – without conditions – or he will drag this out in court.   That scenario is something that NOBODY wants or needs.

The Democratic leadership in the Senate outfoxed themselves on this one.  They were so certain that they could make Blago resign with his tail between his legs and they would have a nice, safe, blue Senate seat for as long as they wanted it.  They failed to deal with Blagojevich’s ego and flair for chutzpa.  They blustered and made threats, and Blago gleefully called their bluff with the Burris appointment.  There is real worry that Burris will not be able to be reelected and that the seat could fall to a Republican challenger.  The dirtier Blagojevich appears to be – the more likely this will play out. 

Roland Burris is 71 years old.  Who knows if he will even want to run for reelection in two years?  And if he does, who is really certain he will not win?  Burris’ attorneys made a point on Hardball with Chris Matthews yesterday that it is next to impossible to unseat a sitting US Senator.

It’s time to seat Burris.  Harry Reid needs to smile, swallow hard, and accept his appointment.  It’s not like Reid doesn’t have experience eating crow – look what he did for Traitor Joe Lieberman……

 

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…