Archive for Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Distasteful choice

Democrats might be better off simply seating the new senator from Illinois and moving on to more important matters.

January 7, 2009


Democrats in the U.S. Senate probably are at least temporarily on a solid legal footing in their decision not to accept the man appointed to fill the vacant Senate seat left by President-elect Barack Obama.

The question is how far they want to push an issue that puts political infighting on the front burner and distracts from far more important national business.

Roland Burris, the former attorney general of Illinois, was appointed by Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich last week to fill Obama’s Senate seat. Blagojevich faces corruption charges based on conversations in which he appeared to be seeking some financial or political reward in exchange for the Senate appointment. Because of those allegations, Blagojevich has lost most of his credibility as an elected official, but he remains in office and presumably has not lost his authority to appoint Obama’s replacement.

Senate leaders want to distance themselves from any Blagojevich wrongdoing, and, therefore are refusing to accept his appointee. The Illinois secretary of state has given them an additional “out” by refusing to sign the formal appointment papers that the Senate requires to seat an appointee.

Burris is undeterred with the controversial nature of his appointment and is determined to take his seat regardless of how marginalized he will be if he is allowed to serve. Legal action is likely.

It’s understandable that Democrats want to punish Blagojevich for the embarrassment he has caused the party, but dragging this situation out doesn’t benefit either the party or the nation. If Burris is not seated, what’s to stop Blagojevich from picking someone whom Senate leaders find even more objectionable? And what kind of precedent does the rejection set? What if Republicans were in the majority and choosing to reject a Democratic appointee?

In the meantime, Senate Democrats are being criticized for refusing to accept the man who would be the only black member of the Senate, and the political infighting is casting an unflattering light on the new party in power.

Even if Blagojevich is impeached and/or removed from office, there doesn’t seem to be any legal basis to cancel actions he took or decisions he made while he was the duly elected governor. If Burris lacks the integrity or intelligence to be a good representative for Illinois, voters can address that problem if he seeks re-election.

At this point, Democratic Senate leaders have a choice. They can either spend weeks or months fighting this public and unflattering battle not to seat Burris or they can seat the man and get on with business that is of far more importance to the country.

The choice may be hard for Senate leaders to swallow but it seems pretty clear.


Uhlrick_Hetfield_III 9 years, 1 month ago

What's one more corrupt politician in the Senate?

levicircle2 9 years, 1 month ago

Check the Supreme Court's 7-1 decision in Powell v. McCormack in 1969. Yes, the Constitution says the Senate can determine its own membership. But the Court interpreted Article I, Section 5 to say that "in judging the qualifications of its members, Congress is limited to the standing qualifications prescribed in the Constitution." Those qualifications do not mention being legally nominated by a crooked Illinois (I repeat myself) Governor.Harry Reid said, "We determine who sits in the Senate... So there's clearly legal authority for us to do whatever we want to do. This goes back for generations."Harry Reid is an uninformed buffoon (on most topics, actually), and Burris will be seated once somebody slips Reid a note with the Court's 40-year old decision.

TheOriginalCA 9 years, 1 month ago

Uhlrick_Hetfield_III (Anonymous) says… What's one more corrupt politician in the Senate?========================Exactly, Let's replace the corrupt former senator with a new corrupt senator.

madameX 9 years, 1 month ago

I think they should at least hold off until the State of Illinois has resolved the issue. I thought one of the holdups was that the nomination hasn't been certified by the State Secretary or something? It would not be setting a healthy precedent to swear in a senator who doesn't have the valid certification of the state he's representing.

levicircle2 9 years, 1 month ago

MadameX - I agree the Secretary of State should sign off on it, but then again, under state law this would typically be a nondiscretionary duty. It's not like the Secretary of State has "veto powers" listed under his/her powers.Look at it this way: If there were an election, and a candidate CLEARLY won, could the Secretary of State refuse to certify the results, thereby "not allowing" that winning candidate to take office? No, because it was a lawful election. Well, as smarmy as Illinois politics are, the Governor followed the law when it came to actually naming Burris - it was a lawful action. The Secretary of State is trying to stop it, but does not have the authority to do so...which a judge will soon tell him/her if they don't figure out by themselves beforehand.

Satirical 9 years, 1 month ago

levicircle2....Would the appointment still be lawful if, hypothetically, Burris bribed the Illinois Governor to be appointed? If so would the only recourse be federal charges?

levicircle2 9 years, 1 month ago

Sat - I believe (using Powell v. McCormack as a guide) that Burris would still have to be seated, THEN kicked out. The charges could still be state charges, but unless he is found guilty, there's nothing to keep him out.It would depend on when the trial for the bribery took place, but if allegations were brought up NOW, the Senate would have to seat him, then deal with the results of the trial later.

Satirical 9 years, 1 month ago

levicircle2....So, just to be clear, even if someone bribes their way into the Senate the appointment is still lawful? While I have not read the Powell case, I find it hard to believe such a case could be precedence for such injustice. Could you cite the case for me?

madameX 9 years, 1 month ago

I meant more from the point of view of the US Senate; I don't think it's a good idea for the Senate to seat someone who isn't certified under the laws of his or her state, regardless of what those laws are. And in this case he isn't. I don't know anything about Illinois law, but I wonder if the Secretary of State approval was stuck in for exactly this type of situation, one where everything is technically legal, but questionable nonetheless. I'm sure the Secretary of State can't just arbitrarily not approve candidates and overturn election results, but I don't think he or she would be doing the job right if he or she just rubber-stamped everything that came down the line, regardless of questions or misgivings.

denak 9 years, 1 month ago

From what I heard on the news today, the Reed is citing Rule 2 of the Senate Code(?) that states that nominated senator(Burris) must be appointed by the govenor and then the appointment signed off by the Secretary of State.The Illinois Secretary of State says that he is being made a fall guy for the Senate and that his signature is merely ceremonial. However, he isn't signing it.From what I am to understand, that yes, it is going to court. Personally, unless there is hard evidence that Burris bribed him way into this seat, then the Democrats should just seat him and get on with business.If this does end up in court, I predict the court will side with Burris. There is, that I know of, no evidence that he has done anything wrong, so there is no reson for him to be denied this seat.Dena

levicircle2 9 years, 1 month ago

Sat -Perhaps a VERY brief summary of the Powell case might be good here...Congressman Adam Clayton Powell was accused of corruption but, before any trial, was re-elected in 1966. House Democrats declined to seat him, Powell sued, and the Supreme Court ruled that Congress had acted unconstitutionally. Congress could have expelled Powell with a two-thirds vote, as stipulated in the Constitution, but it couldn't deny him the seat in the first instance.Here's what the U.S. Constitution says a Senator needs to be: "No Person shall be a Senator who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty Years, and been nine Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State for which he shall be chosen."In the current situation, it's not even the appointee (Burris) who is accused of anything - in the Powell case, it was the Congressman, and he STILL had to be seated.There may be Illinois law that prohibits a felon (bribing their way into the Senate) - but that would take a trial and a conviction. (Even the U.S. Senate might act with that much against a Senator!)

Satirical 9 years, 1 month ago

leviciricle2....Interesting. Thanks for the info. If the Senate Democrats know this, which I am assuming they do, then this is just a game of politics to assure whoever the Democrat candidate in the next election won't be tainted by the current scandal (thus hurting the chances of a Democrat being elected). This is apparently just a way to ensure they don't lose the seat to an Republican. Kinda sad.

madameX 9 years, 1 month ago

What state was he from and were the election results certified by that state? As I see it, the Senate isn't seating Burris because his nomination has not been finalized by his state just like they wouldn't seat Al Franken, if he was trying to get himself seated, for more or less the same reason. It's out of their hands because the dispute is at the state level. I don't know if that's their motive (to be honest, I doubt it is) but that's why I don't disapprove of what they're doing.

Satirical 9 years, 1 month ago

madameX...."What state was he from and were the election results certified by that state?"Illinois, Burris was not elected he was appointed by the Governor after Obama left the Senate seat vacant.From my understanding it is the Republicans, not the Democrats who don't want Franken seated. The problem isn't ouf of the hands at the Senate level since they, as Harry Reid said, decide their own rules.There have been talks of a compromise where Burris would be seated (the Illinois Secretary of State's signature wouldn't be required) as long as Burris promises not to run for re-election in 2 years when the seat is open (because they realize the taint that will follow him and hurt the chances of putting another Democrat in the Senate).Clearly this is about politics.

jaywalker 9 years, 1 month ago

From what I've read and heard so far, Burris is a good man. My guess is he will eventually be approved, it's a shame it has to have a tainted tail to it through no fault of his own.

georgeofwesternkansas 9 years, 1 month ago

He will get seated. And Hot Rod is and will be the puppet master of the dem party.

Kyle Reed 9 years, 1 month ago

If they let it play out into much more of fiasco than it already is they are playing into the hand of the Gov. who clearly did all this to deflect attention from his alleged misconduct. They need to not allow the focus to shift from the true scoundrel in all of this.

madameX 9 years, 1 month ago

Satrical:Of course it's about politics. I didn't mean that the decision to seat or not to seat was out of the hands of the Senate, I meant that the selection process is out of their hands, and they shouldn't be seating senators whose selection process, whatever that may be, has not been completed yet. Neither Burris or Franken are 100% official yet, regardless of who is trying to keep them out of their seats. That was my only point in drawing a parallel.

Paul R Getto 9 years, 1 month ago

Give him his seat and give him a chance to serve.

Flap Doodle 9 years, 1 month ago

Blago played Reid like a harp from heck.

Richard Heckler 9 years, 1 month ago

It seems to me an effort to place some distance between national politics and the Illinois governor... not the worst ideaHell Bush was not qualified to be president in many eyes but the republicans chose him anywayIs this Burris situation a matter of qualification? Since when?If all of the other alleged choices put up money..... apparently not enoughOn radio news it is clear the governor has the authority to make the choice for someoneto fill in for the remaining years or whatever. This is nothing new.Does the Burris matter have a touch of news sensationalism? Yep Have a lot of folks been sucked in? Yep How are things in our own back yards? Any less corrupt? Since when?

Sigmund 9 years, 1 month ago

"Democrats in the U.S. Senate probably are at least temporarily on a solid legal footing in their decision not to accept the man appointed to fill the vacant Senate seat left by President-elect Barack Obama."What is temporary solid footing? I would think one of the qualities of solid footing would be its permanence.Anyway, despite the equivocation and as levicircle2 correctly pointed out, the Governor appointed, the Secretary of State doesn't have to certify (but can if s/he likes), and poof Burris is a US Senator and there isn't a damn thing Harry Reid or President elect Obama can do about it. Although Harry Reid has forgotten it, US senators are constrained by the law.

gccs14r 9 years, 1 month ago

There have been four refusals to seat a Senator since the 17th Amendment was ratified.

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