Please Be Seated
Watching NBC’s Meet the Press yesterday morning, I was not mightily impressed with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s explanation for why the Senate Democratic Caucus has the constitutional authority to deny Roland Burris his appointment to fill Barack Obama’s vacated U.S. Senate seat. I am not a lawyer, but my sense of the Constitution is that the Senate can deny Burris the seat only if he does not meet the constitutionally-mandated requirements for office. Reid stated yesterday that this hurdle is not an issue for Burris, which leaves the Majority Leader on pretty shaky ground.
Rod Blagojevich is still the duly elected governor of Illinois, and has not yet been indicted by the Justice Department. Democrats may not like the pall that the whole seamy Blagojevich episode is casting on their January return to unified government, but that is a political matter, not a constitutional one. They should seat Burris and let the chips fall where they may, in terms of their ability to hold onto the seat in 2010.
That said, Congressman Bobby Rush’s recent comments that to deny Burris the seat would represent a legislative “lynching,” are equally ridiculous. The issue here is not whether Democrats want to prevent an African-American from returning to the Senate, but whether they can prevent a loss of the Illinois seat at the next midterm elections. While there may be strategic questions about who will have the broadest appeal for the Illinois electorate, where the political interests of Chicagoland and Downstate Illinois are often at odds, I don’t think race is playing into this in the way Rush suggested.


Posted On: 01-07-2009 13:32:45 by Jim Splaine
I fully agree with your assessment about seating Roland Burris, who from my observation might not be my first or second or third choice for United States Senator, but he should not be blocked by a power play, by arrogance or by politics. If the only logistical roadblock right now really is that a Secretary of State in Illinois hasn't signed on the dotted line to "certify" his nomination, that too seems like just politics. Since when does any Secretary of State of any state have the power to essentially veto a Governor's signature by withholding his/her own on the paperwork? I can't imagine that happening in New Hampshire, no matter what the issue. Accepting Roland Burris should have nothing to do with an election two years hence, whether it be Republican or Democrat. The Constitution protects rights of a minority, even if that minority is one may who happens to be a weird, but still legitimate, Governor.

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