Sorting Out the Burris Appointment

Amanda Carpenter
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Posted: Jan 03, 2009 6:06 PM
Hello, everyone! I'm back in DC as a newlywed and doing my best to sift through the fallout from Blagojevich's decision to appoint Roland Burris to Barack Obama's vacated Senate seat for some spots on Fox & Friends tomorrow am.

Here's the gist of it. Democrat Leadership is using the Illinois Secretary of State as their blocker to buy some time on this thing. IL SoS Jesse White has refused to co-sign the papers on the appointment and this helps Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid since he's adamantly opposed to the appointment. Senate Democrats might be able to use the Secretary's refusal to sign to refer the appointment to the Rules Committee where it could take up to 90 days to figure out what to do with Burris. In reality, the signature may or may not matter. Burris was appointed, albeit by a disgraced, but not convicted Governor. The junior senator to-be's fate is for the Rules Committee to figure out at their own sweet pace, though. Reid could even send it to the Rules Committee for review if Secretary White DOES end up signing the certification--which prompts a good debate on whether or not it's ethical for Reid to use the powers of the Senate to stop someone from becoming a senator that the establishment doesn't like...

Moving on. Reporters very excited about the possibility of a Senate showdown on Tuesday when Burris is expected to arrive in Washington. It'll be a media circus if Burris tries to strong arm his way to the Senate floor, although everyone involved seems to be downplaying the likelihood of this scenario. If he does try, Senate Democrats say they'll deploy the Sergeant at Arms and Capitol Police to stop him. Officials would detain Burris just like they would a Code Pink protester  trying to sneak into the chamber. (Fun fact: Current Sergeant at Arms Terry Gainer used to be the director of the Illinois State Police and knows Burris from his time at that post.)

Adding even more drama is the fact that Blagojevich is coming to town, too and no one could stop HIM from storming the floor since all governors have floor privileges and again, Blagojevich hasn't been convicted of anything. Leader Reid may be speaking face-to-face with Blagojevich in a meeting arranged by Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin (D.) that has discussed, but has not yet been confirmed.

Regardless, if Blagojevich is anywhere on the Hill he's going to be stalked by the entire Capitol Hill press corps. Judging from his last press conference, I'd say it's a safe bet he'll have some kind of newsworthy comments ready for them. Maybe more poetry excerpts if they're lucky.

Reid and Blagojevich will have a lot to discuss. Six days before Blagojevich was busted, Reid talked on the phone with the governor lobbying him NOT to appoint Illinois Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. or Rep. Danny Davis to the seat. (Reid's staff refuses to say who Reid WAS supporting.) Republican Senatorial Campaign Chairman Sen. John Cornyn (Tex.) has publicly called on Reid to explain why these two men--both black--should NOT have been appointed to the seat. The Black Panther's Bobby Rush threw on some more racial tones when he said Burris was being "lynched" earlier this week.

Meanwhile back in Illinois, state Republicans are trying to move fast to impeach Blagojevich and possibly have Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn make his own appointment to fill Obama's seat.  That way, perhaps, the Senate could choose which one they wanted.

Burris's lawyer, Anthony White, however, vows he'll take this to court if Burris is not seated by the Senate. And, it looks like Burris would have a pretty good case. 

Something like this came up back in 1969 when Rep. Adam Clayton Powell won his re-election over accusations of corruption. Kind of like William "Cold Cash" Jefferson, but unlike Jefferson, the House voted Powell out. The trouble was, Powell wasn't even charged with anything. Powell went to the Supreme Court in a case called Powell v. McCormack and won his seat back.

To successfully oust someone, the Constitution says it must be proven the questionable person lacks "qualification" in a manner according to the Constitution. Therefore, if Burris was seated and Reid wanted to get rid of him, Reid would need to get a 2/3rds vote in the Senate AND to show Burris is somehow unqualified to beat it out in court. 

Whew, have you got all that? Basically, if I had to sum all this up I'd say this whole mess is a gray area that, for the time being, favors Blagojevich..which means lots of trouble and infighting for the Democrats.

The big question looming is "What is Obama going to say about this?" After all, it is HIS old seat.