Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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December 31, 2008

THE TWISTS AND TURNS OF A POLITICAL SOAP OPERA.... As absurd as the Rod Blagojevich scandal has been, there appeared to be a light at the end of the tunnel. The state legislature would impeach the governor, Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn (D) would assume the office, and a legitimate senator would fill the state's vacancy. Quinn noted that he believed the process would be complete by early-February.

But, no. As we saw yesterday, Roland Burris seems awfully pleased by the prospect of joining the U.S. Senate, and Blagojevich is just tickled by his ability to stick his thumb in the political world's eye.

Anxious to inject a racial element to the developments, Rep. Bobby Rush (D) of Chicago said yesterday that he does not believe any senator "wants to go on record to deny one African American from being seated in the U.S. Senate." But senators are going to get some cover from the African-American president -- Barack Obama issued a statement siding with his Senate Democrats in their decision to reject Blagojevich appointees:

"Roland Burris is a good man and a fine public servant, but the Senate Democrats made it clear weeks ago that they cannot accept an appointment made by a governor who is accused of selling this very Senate seat. I agree with their decision, and it is extremely disappointing that Governor Blagojevich has chosen to ignore it. I believe the best resolution would be for the Governor to resign his office and allow a lawful and appropriate process of succession to take place. While Governor Blagojevich is entitled to his day in court, the people of Illinois are entitled to a functioning government and major decisions free of taint and controversy."

Illinois' Dick Durbin, the #2 Democrat in the Senate, also didn't seem especially worried about appearances, saying Blagojevich's effort "will lead nowhere."

For his part, during an odd MSNBC interview, Burris believes we'll see "a major outcry from the people of Illinois" if the Senate rejects his appointment. I have no idea what leads Burris to believe this, but I suspect senators aren't going to care.

And what about Jesse White, the Illinois secretary of state, who said he would refuse to sign Blagojevich paperwork on the appointment? That's unlikely to matter -- the NYT noted, "[A]fter Mr. White's lawyers scanned the legal precedents on the question, there appeared to be no statutory requirement that Mr. White's signature be included, his spokesman said, so the move seemed likely to be mostly symbolic."

Moving forward, there are plenty of questions, but two of the key issues are a) whether the Senate can block Burris' appointment; and b) whether the Senate should block his appointment. I'll be tackling both shortly.

Steve Benen 8:00 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (19)

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so the move (White's refusal to certify the appointment) seemed likely to be mostly symbolic."

Since one of the few rationale the Senate can use for not seating a new member is the election/appointment process, this could be their loophole. The SCOTUS would be hardpressed to argue that the Senate cannot make a judgment about whether the certification is proper. If the Senate does refuse to seat Burris, the Illinois legislature would have easy grounds for impeachment, and wouldn't have to wait for the SCOTUS to weigh in.

It will be fun to see whether Republicans (the party of corruption) in the Senate choose to make a principled argument in favor of Blago's choice.

Posted by: Danp on December 31, 2008 at 8:10 AM | PERMALINK

Say what you will about Illinois politics (I live here - the entire system is badly broken). But it also facilitated Obama's political education and advancement to the national stage. Obama's move into the senate was made much easier by the fractured Republican party. Now it seems like Obama's move out of the Senate is making the Republican revival much more probable. Should Burris enter the Senate and decide to run, expect to see a divided Democratic party and a much more united Republican effort to regain the Senate seat. In protecting the Senate seat from Republican in a special election, the Democrats may have lost it in the long term. But for most of us here it makes not a damned bit of difference. The big interests will remain the same and the power will be with them.

Posted by: lou on December 31, 2008 at 8:33 AM | PERMALINK

When Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska was convicted of crimes, did Harry Reid or other senators say he would should be seated if he had been re-elected? If I am correct, the answer is NO.

Posted by: IndianaBrian on December 31, 2008 at 8:34 AM | PERMALINK

Oops, saw a type in my previous post. When Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska was convicted of crimes, did Harry Reid or other senators say he should not be seated if he had been re-elected? If I am correct, the answer is NO.

Posted by: IndianaBrian on December 31, 2008 at 8:36 AM | PERMALINK

Is this outraged Senate the same one that gave a standing ovation on its floor to a convicted felon last month, the Senator from Alaska. Why is the unindicted, unconvicted, unimpeached Governor of Illinois being held to a higher standard than Ted Stevens and the myriad number of house and Senate member who have actually been indicted and continued to vote in Congress without a peep of outrage from their peers. This is about the rule of law, the presumption of innoncence and due process which protects all of us and should not be thrown away lightly.
It is a legal appointment - deal with it.

Posted by: aline on December 31, 2008 at 8:38 AM | PERMALINK

FACE IT, folks...whatever kind of a buffoon Blago appears to be (at least self-obsessed)...he has scored a brilliant point with this appointment. Should he have, of course not, but is this not the perfect example of how convoluted our system has become? ... well it is surely one of them! I'm thinking the founding fathers (not as much the paragons they are often presented to be) would be spinning in their afterlife forms....

Posted by: Dancer on December 31, 2008 at 8:39 AM | PERMALINK

"two of the key issues are a) whether the Senate can block Burris' appointment; and b) whether the Senate should block his appointment"

With the Democrats, can and should doesn't always translate into will, though.

Posted by: sarabeth on December 31, 2008 at 8:44 AM | PERMALINK

When Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska was convicted of crimes, did Harry Reid or other senators say he should not be seated if he had been re-elected? If I am correct, the answer is NO.

You are not correct. Even Republican senators said they would vote to expel him if he was reelected and then failed to resign. The difference is that they had grounds for expulsion; with Burris, they do not.

Posted by: shortstop on December 31, 2008 at 8:46 AM | PERMALINK

Screw the self-important pricks in the Senate! And screw having somebody's private conversations with his wife tape recorded by the feds!

Burris is going to be a Senator because the governor of Illinois appointed him to fill a vacancy. End of story. Suck it!

Posted by: Haik Bedrosian on December 31, 2008 at 8:48 AM | PERMALINK

Even Republican senators said they would vote to expel him

As did Reid hiimself.

Is this outraged Senate the same one that gave a standing ovation on its floor -Dancer

This was after he lost his election, however. Call it professional courtesy, if you will. But with Burris, the issue is not the appointee. I suspect most Dems would be happy to have Burris join them under any other circumstances. This whole fal-di-rah is about forcing Blago to resign and ensuring an untainted Senator.

Posted by: Danp on December 31, 2008 at 8:53 AM | PERMALINK

When Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska was convicted of crimes, did Harry Reid or other senators say he should not be seated if he had been re-elected? If I am correct, the answer is NO.

You're only partially correct. When it looked like Stevens might pull out a narrow win, Democratic and Republican leaders of the Senate said they'd let him take his seat and then immediately vote to expel him.

The Stevens case isn't really comparable to this one. If Stevens had won the election and there was no evidence of tampering with the results, there really would have been no grounds to contest the fact that Stevens had been duly elected --- the voters would have clearly voted for him, so what are the grounds to block their will? The place to act would have been to expel him from the Senate for committing a felony while in office.

In the Illinois case, there doesn't seem to be anything objectionable about Burris personally, just serious concerns about the way he was appointed --- should a governor who is accused of trying to sell a Senate seat be allowed to appoint someone anyway? So, if people are concerned about the appointment process, the way to act on it would be to try to block the appointment. Some have suggested allowing Burris to be seated and then expelling him, but that doesn't make sense. What has Burris done to deserve being expelled from the Senate?

Posted by: paul on December 31, 2008 at 9:09 AM | PERMALINK

BLAGO & FRIENDS…
See Rod Blagojevich and an all-star cast in “All-Star Jailhouse Rock” at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OBdkTaoavXI

SEE MORE PARODIES AT http://parodyandson.blogspot.com

Posted by: Parody & Son on December 31, 2008 at 9:37 AM | PERMALINK
As absurd as the Rod Blagojevich scandal has been, there appeared to be a light at the end of the tunnel. The state legislature would impeach the governor, Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn (D) would assume the office, and a legitimate senator would fill the state's vacancy.
I believe you've omitted an important step in this sequence: The state Assembly would impeach the governor; the state Senate would convict him, thereby removing him from office; Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn (D) would assume the office; and a legitimate senator would fill the state's vacancy. That's assuming that impeachment in Illinois works the same way it does at the federal level. Posted by: navamske on December 31, 2008 at 10:34 AM | PERMALINK

That's assuming that impeachment in Illinois works the same way it does at the federal level.

It does. It requires a simple majority in the house (we use the term "general assembly" to refer to both houses) and two-thirds in the senate. Quinn says there are plenty of votes and from asking around, I think that's true.

Posted by: shortstop on December 31, 2008 at 10:40 AM | PERMALINK

A bit petty to spite Roland Burris and Illinois just to get back at a governor who is innocent until proven guilty and has made a reasonable appointment, what? Who cares what a Halfrican oreo thinks; it's still a high tech lynching of a black man.

Posted by: Luther on December 31, 2008 at 11:19 AM | PERMALINK

Please pay attention to me! Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeease!

Posted by: Loother on December 31, 2008 at 11:27 AM | PERMALINK

Hell, I said all of this, about White's powers and more, yesterday.

Nice to see part of the MSM and MSLBs belatedly getting it right.

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on December 31, 2008 at 12:22 PM | PERMALINK

I believe the best resolution would be for the Governor to resign his office and allow a lawful and appropriate process of succession to take place.

Back during the Clinton/Lewinsky imgroglio, some Democratic senators called on Clinton to resign, for the good of the country and for the good of the party. Clinton toughed it out, and those same senators voted not to remove him from office after he had been impeached. Now Democrats are asking Blago to resign for the good of the party and the good of Illinois and the U.S. Blago is acting as though he intends to tough it out, and he is acting as though he expects Illinois Democrats to support him as national Democrats supported Clinton. Nixon also, you will recall, refused to resign until it was clear that the U.S. Senate, including almost all Senatorial Republicans, was indeed going to vote to remove him from office after his impeachment. Sometimes the Good Guys (in this case Illinois Democrats) just have to summon the courage to get rid of the Bad Guys (in this case it's Blago), or accept the consequences of letting him stay.

As a swing voter, I prefer for both parties to be strong. Right now, it looks as though the lethargy (for lack of a better word) of Illinois Democrats threatens to weaken the National Democratic Party and the Democratic President Obama. Blago's playing them for fools and wimps, so Illinois Democrats better get rid of him soon.

Posted by: MatthewRMarler on December 31, 2008 at 1:54 PM | PERMALINK

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Posted by: G on December 31, 2008 at 6:56 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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