Monday, January 05, 2009

What to do about Burris?

As you know, the lamest of lame duck governors has appointed Roland Burris to take Obama's seat in the U.S. Senate. Burris seems to be a decent guy, although my impression is that he's decidedly a second-stringer in Illinois politics, having tried to move from lower-profile statewide offices (Controller, AG) to higher offices
and failed.

Blago is still the governor until he's removed. I doubt that there has
been a big push to invalidate any other official actions he's taken
during this period (bill signings, executive branch appointments, etc.),
and it's hard to say that the investigation denudes him of his
constitutional powers. Thus, on the face of it, it appears that he has
the authority to make the appointment. I also don't think that the
Secretary of State has the legal authority to reject the appointment, as
the certification seems to be a ministerial duty and the law doesn't
accord the Secretary of State any role in the [i]selection[i] of the
next senator.

On the other hand, the case law seems to suggest that the Senate does
have the authority to evaluate the eligibility of its members to serve
in the Senate. I haven't gone back and read Powell v. McCormack, in which Adam Clayton Powell (D., Bimini) was expelled from the House, but it has been suggested that it would apply to this situation.

I think the most persuasive argument for not seating him is not a
dislike for either him or Blago, but the fact that Blago's apparent
attempts to sell Obama's seat has corrupted the entire process, and has
prevented people who would have been viable candidates from obtaining
the appointment (as, for instance, by their refusal to pay bribes). In
that case, the only way to be confident that the appointment will be an
honest one is to wipe the slate clean by impeaching Blago, removing him,
and then having the Lt. Gov. succeed him and make the appointment.

As for a special election, I have two problems with it. First, it isn't
what the statutes call for. Second, and this is related, it seems to be
an ad hoc solution to a political problem; I think we're better off if
we adhere to established procedures, especially when we're talking about
the structure or composition of government.


Blogger Stevem said...

John, it seems like you have the pros and cons right. What to do about Burris seems like a toss-up. Although Blago has clearly soiled the process, I think that perhaps seating Burris might be the appropriate thing to do - as long as there is no good evidence that he bought his way in. It gives Illinois full representation rather than waiting for impeachment and its sequalae, which could take months (optimistically).
Of course, the best solution would be for Blago to withdraw Burris's name and resign, but that ship has sailed.

January 07, 2009 8:58 AM  
Blogger Jack McCullough said...

I pretty much think the ship has sailed not just for Blago but also for Burris.

January 08, 2009 1:03 AM  

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