Steve Chapman

U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush, a fellow African-American, couldnt resist a racial appeal, urging Blagojevichs critics "to not hang or lynch the appointee as you try to castigate the appointer." The governor rewarded the effort by saying, "That was excellent, Bobby," which may not stand as the former Black Panthers proudest moment. The overall effect was to confirm that Roland Burris is to racism what Harriet Miers was to sexism -- not a victim.

Blagojevich insisted he had the obligation to make an appointment, rather than "deprive the people of Illinois of their appropriate voice and votes in the United States Senate." A lot of his constituents would just as soon wait, but if the governor felt it imperative to fill the seat, he could have offered some compromise solution -- say, inviting Democrats in the General Assembly to recommend a candidate. That option, however, would have meant forgoing about the only power the governor has left, except the power to make citizens wonder why on earth they ever let him on the ballot.

The appointment evoked no warm feelings among Democrats in the U.S. Senate, who vowed to reject anyone chosen by Blagojevich. Burris, his allies and some legal experts insist the senators lack that constitutional authority , and the U.S. Supreme Courts 1969 ruling that the House could not refuse to seat Adam Clayton Powell suggests they may be right.

But they overlook some pertinent facts. One is that the Powell case took more than two years to resolve, which doesnt bode well for someone aspiring to fill the last two years of Obamas term. The second is that even if Senate Democrats cant legally keep him out, they can render him irrelevant.

Most of the work of Congress is done in committee, and the constitution doesnt say a senator is entitled to serve on committees -- in fact, it doesnt even mention committees. Once on Capitol Hill, Burris may have nothing to do but bask in his new title, show up for an occasional floor vote and cash his paycheck.

For that job, come to think of it, Burris is perfect.


Steve Chapman

Steve Chapman is a columnist and editorial writer for the Chicago Tribune.
 

 
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