I have to say, Blagojevich’s selection of Roland Burris is almost brilliant.
Blagojevich picked someone not affiliated with any of Illinois’ political machines. He picked someone who isn’t a close ally of his. In fact, Burris has run against Blagojevich in the past, and he condemned Blagojevich’s pay-to-play scheme as “appalling.” In addition, Burris is the first African-American elected to statewide office in Illinois; he’s a distinguished public servant who has earned a lot of respect among Illinois politicians.
In other words, Blagojevich picked someone so sterling, so clean that he’s practically daring Harry Reid and the Democrats to expel him. In fact, Rep. Bobby Rush actually dared them to expel Burris:
There are no African-Americans in the Senate, and I don’t think that anyone, any U.S. Senator who is sitting right now would want to go on record to deny one African-American from being seated in the U.S. Senate. I don’t think they want to go on record doing that.
Let me remind you that the state of Illinois and the people of the state of Illinois in their collective wisdom have sent two African-Americans to the U.S. Senate. That makes a difference. This is not just a state of Illinois matter … but indeed, by this decision, it has tremendous national importance.
I disagree with Rep. Rush. I don’t think that, if a Senate seat is won by a minority, it should always be held someone from that minority group. While I believe wholeheartedly in increasing the diversity of the United States Senate, America is a a democracy; we give people power because we think they will do the best job. In this case, Burris won’t be able to the best job; the taint of scandal and illegitimacy will hang over him for his entire tenure in the Senate.
Still, this puts Senate Democrats in a tough position. Under any other circumstance, Burris would be a fantastic choice. But these aren’t other circumstances. While Burris might be a good candidate with a strong record, he’s only going to the Senate because of Rod Blagojevich; that, in and of itself, disqualifies him. I just hope that Harry Reid has the spine to follow through with his promise to kick out anyone Blagojevich appoints.
UPDATE: Here’s a welcome sight–Harry Reid is showing some spine:
The Senate will not seat Roland Burris if Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich attempts to appoint him, a Democratic leadership aide said.
Majority Leader Harry Reid views Burris as “unacceptable,” the aide said.
Now, if only Reid was as willing to stand up to Republicans as he is willing to stand up to his fellow Democrats…
UPDATE II: Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White is saying he won’t certify Burris’ appointment, which would keep him from the Senate:
As I have previously stated publicly, I cannot co-sign a document that certifies any appointment by Rod Blagojevich for the vacant United State Senate seat from Illiois.
Although I have respect for former Attorney General Roland Burris, because of the current cloud of controversy surrounding the Governor, I cannot accept the document.
Of course, there’s some question as to whether White has the legal authority to defy Blagojevich. Here’s what Illinois law says about the Secretary of State’s role in appointments:
Sec. 5. It shall be the duty of the Secretary of State:
- To countersign and affix the seal of state to all commissions required by law to be issued by the m Governor.
- To make a register of all appointments by the Governor, specifying the person appointed, the office conferred, the date of the appointment, the date when bond or oath is taken and the date filed. If Senate confirmation is required, the date of the confirmation shall be included in the register.
In other words, if White resists the appointment, this will wind up in court and it will probably be resolved in Blagojevich’s favor. The only way this appointment can be prevented–if it even can be prevented at this point–is if the Illinois legislature removes Blagojevich from office before White is compelled to certify the appointment.
We’ll just have to see how this plays out.
UPDATE III: President-elect Obama responds:
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
UPDATE IV: While Burris isn’t a strong Blagojevich ally, he is a supporter–Burris served as the Vice-Chair of Blagojevich’s gubernatorial transition team and has raised money for Blagojevich in the past.