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January 06, 2009

Comments

Would it be wise to impeach someone who hasn't even been indicted yet? I mean, things certainly look bad for Blago but shouldn't we all be for due process? Just as a matter of fairness?

i think impeachment doesn't trigger the same due process rights as a criminal proceeding. i think the legislature has greater leeway to boot if they deserve it.

blago does. if the evidence was somehow conflicting, that's another matter. but the phone calls make it clear -- but there's a pressing short-term need to get a senator appointed.

in short, i think things can rise to the level of impeachment but not indictment

Since when is there a requirement to wait for an indictment before impeaching, blackink?

I don't have statistics, but isn't it in fact common for impeachment proceedings to occur before an indictment, and even in cases where no indictment ever occurs?

Agree with you pub., except that Burris deserves scorn for accepting the appointment too. He is, and has always been, a dork.

Illinois Dems should also get their act together and impeach Blago now.

Wonderful. The Democratic Party can't get its act together to impeach Bush, Cheney, or Rumsfeld, but surely can to impeach Blagojevich.

I agree that Burris should not be seated. Even if you want to argue that he's not directly "tainted" by Blagojevich's corrupt activity, his acceptance of the appointment shows he cares more about furthering his own career than dispersing the ethical cloud hanging over the process.

Am I the only one who thinks that the ethical, principled response to such an appointment would have been to (regretfully) turn down the appointment? So what does that say about Burris?

I see where you're coming from, publius. But I just disagree. If the evidence hasn't even been presented in a court of law, then who's to say this all might be a lot of sound and not much fury?

To me, allegations are merely allegations. I think we all have the right to be a skeptic until the evidence has been submitted and vetted in a court of law.

And KC, there is no requirement that I know of. But then, what exactly would Blago be impeached for? Doesn't he deserve the chance to at least defend himself against the evidence?

Is he or isn't he legally appointed? Was the rule of law followed?

I might dislike his accepting it. I might dislike Blagoveich for appointing him. I might dislike a lot of things with it. However the people allowing him to make a spectacle out of this are the ones that rejected his credentials without a reasonable excuse.

On what legal basis were his credentials rejected?

NPR reported this morning that Burris, whose first name is Roland, named his son Roland and his daughter Rolanda. Sounds like sufficient ego to make everything all about him all the time.

I will say, however, that I do think Burris was silly to accept the appointment. He's being disingenuous about all the drama surrounding his response.

But what did we really expect of the guy? He's 71. This is probably his final chance - in fact, I'm almost sure of it - to hold an office of this significance.

"NPR reported this morning that Burris, whose first name is Roland, named his son Roland and his daughter Rolanda."

George Foreman for Senate!

More seriously, and in answer to ED's question:

The Illinois Secretary of State refused to sign Burris's certificate of appointment. Senate rules require the certificate to be signed by both the Governor and the Secretary of State. So the Secretary of the Senate refused to accept Burris's credentials. That part all seems above board. Now whether or not it was legitimate for the Illinois SOS to withhold his signature, I have no idea.

his acceptance of the appointment shows he cares more about furthering his own career than dispersing the ethical cloud hanging over the process.

And this is a justification not to seat him? That's ridiculous. The Senate is full of unpleasant characters who put their egos ahead of the good of the country. Burris was legally appointed by the legal governor of Illinois. He should be seated, whether or not he's a good guy. The Senate doesn't get to refuse to seat people because it doesn't like them. We're governed by laws, not men, and the law says that Burris is a Senator.

This whole mess isn't Burris's fault - it's Reid and Obama's fault for bluffing and saying that they wouldn't accept any senator appointed by Blagojevich, something which they had no right to do and no way to follow up on.

"Illinois Dems should also get their act together and impeach Blago now."

Except since they haven't, Blago is still the duly elected governor of Illinois -- which makes the Burris appointment, and his acceptance of it, perfectly legal.

The fault for today's media circus -- having watched much of it this morning at home before coming to work for my 1-9 shift -- lies with Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid for disallowing Burris to be signed in with the other newcomers.

Had Reid done that, Burris would still be the lead story -- but not one who could begin to look like a sympathetic figure.

On what grounds, I ask, did Reid duly deny allowing Burris to join the Senate's Old Boys Club?

What's more, I don't think it looks very good of the Democratic leader shutting out a legally appointed black Senate designate to the Old (White) Boys Club that has long been the U.S. Senate.

We can get as high and mighty as we want about this. But since Blago shows no inclination to resign, he isn't going away and, therefore, neither will Burris.

Seat Burris, as should be done, and it will surely be a story -- but one that will fade and allow the 111th Congress to get on with the business of advancing Barack Obama's agenda.

Doesn't he deserve the chance to at least defend himself against the evidence?

Of course he does. What does that have to do with delaying the impeachment until there's been an indictment? The criminal trial and the impeachment are two difference processes.

You're entitled to your opinion that an official shouldn't be impeached "until the evidence has been submitted and vetted in a court of law", but it doesn't seem to be connected to the way impeachment works (or even is supposed to work) in the real world. Do you even have an example of an impeachment proceeding that was delayed until there was an indictment?

On what grounds, I ask, did Reid duly deny allowing Burris to join the Senate's Old Boys Club?

One argument is that Blagojevich's attempt to sell the seat raises a reasonable suspicion that the appointment could be illegitimate, and the Senate can refuse to seat him just as it could refuse to seat someone suspected of being elected in a fraudulent election. The other argument at the moment is that he doesn't have the proper paperwork from the state of Illinois.

What's more, I don't think it looks very good of the Democratic leader shutting out a legally appointed black Senate designate to the Old (White) Boys Club that has long been the U.S. Senate.

Thank you, Bobby Rush. Can we get a few mentions of lynching and Bull Connor now to improve the level of discourse?

Sorry jdkbrown. That one has already been debunked as not being a legal maneuver by the SOS. He's even said he has no legal standing to refuse on the appointment, but he's doing it anyways. The Senate Dems might use it as a convenient excuse, but it doesn't change the fact Burris is still legally appointed.

Not to mention the legal can of worms it opens up for any future Senator from one party elected from a state controlled by another party.

This is the extra legal type of crap that we hated from Bush, John Yoo, et al. No idea why so many people are in favor of contributing their noble tradition.

Blago should be impeached.

Burris should be seated.

Reid should be challenged as leader because his pathetic impotence makes the whole party look bad.

I don't know. You can't really fault Burris all that much, and the whole thing could have been avoided if Senate Democrats would just accept the pretty clear legal reality that Burris is entitled to the seat.

And I don't think it's all that big of a distraction. It's not like anything was going to get done today or tomorrow anyway.

This is a no-win situation, thanks to Burris's foolishness in agreeing to play Blagojevich's game, but Reid's strategy seems to be to be dragged kicking and screaming into allowing Burris in. I suspect that could actually be better than following the advice of all the blog commenters who think that the Democrats should look strong by rallying around Blagojevich's appointment.

I've got to give Blago a little credit here. When this scandal broke, the Illinois governor seemed like a total buffoon. But the Burris appointment suggests that he has some political chops.

In Burris, Blago found a kind of perfect storm for this particular ratf**k. Burris is a plausible senator: he has a long political resume and he seems (from everything I've seen and read) to be un-corrupt himself. He's old enough that he appears to be a caretaker, so that the many Illinois Democrats who hope to land in the Senate won't freak out over his appointment. He apparently has long and fairly deep political ties with Blago himself (i.e. he can be trusted by the governor). He's African American, which creates an instant constituency for his admission to the Senate (especially as he's the potential replacement for the only African American Senator). And, last but not least, Burris is enough of an egomaniac that he could be counted on not only to accept the appointment, but to play the role of scene-stealing sideshow to the hilt.

Well played, Rod Blagojevich!

Whoops....messed up that link. It should go here.

This whole mess isn't Burris's fault - it's Reid and Obama's fault for bluffing and saying that they wouldn't accept any senator appointed by Blagojevich, something which they had no right to do and no way to follow up on.

I can't help suspecting that had Obama not voiced any opposition to Blagojevich's senate appointment choice, many of these same voices now criticising Obama for their stance against Burris would be carping about Obama's silence and saying, "See, Obama really is just fine with the level of corruption in Chicago/Illinois." Heads I win. Tails you lose.

"The Illinois Secretary of State refused to sign Burris's certificate of appointment. Senate rules require the certificate to be signed by both the Governor and the Secretary of State."

Having heard this point this morning, I still think Reid could have lobbied, behind the scenes, for the Illinois Secretary of State to sign the damn thing -- if an impeachment isn't forthcoming -- in order to get on with the important business of legislating.

Also, I wonder if Reid -- on his own, or by a vote in the Senate -- could have waived the Senate rule requiring both the signature of the Governor and Secretary of State.

Methinks this is the problem Illinois is facing -- being in a suspended state of animation in Blago Land. He is the duly elected governor but it's highly questionable if he can effectively govern, especially when the Secretary of State, in matters such as this, is establishing roadblocks so he cannot.

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"Wonderful. The Democratic Party can't get its act together to impeach Bush, Cheney, or Rumsfeld, but surely can to impeach Blagojevich."

Does sort of put a different perspective on things -- and the best piece of snark I have read to date from Jes, who has been ringing the impeachment bell, along with Nell, loud and clear for some time.

Not that I disagree with them, and I certainly see Bush, Cheyney, et al's transgressions -- which could be proved criminal -- as more worthy of impeachment than President Clinton's.

But at the risk of opening up a whole different thread of worms, I wonder if the slog and scandal of impeachment proceedings would damage the Obama administration's day-to-day ability to lead, get this country moving again, and put Obama in a place where he can effectively act on the world stage and address such pressing issues as Mideast peace.

I know it's not what you want to hear, Jes, but I wonder if pragmatism outweighs principle here.

Bedtime, your idea is that Reid, or the Senate Democrats in general, should insert themselves into the Illinois battle, siding with Blagojevich? And that would make them look better?

They did insert themselves. They sent letters saying that they opposed a special election, Blagoveich should resign, and he should not appoint anyone.

I think they already inserted themselves pretty damn far as it is. They had just as big a hand creating this mess as anyone else. In fact in their normal desire to avoid confrontation, avoid actually doing their jobs, etc, the Democrats at all levels have tried to punt this hoping that Blagoveich would do the right thing. The one guy probably guaranteed not to do it.

Does any of this sound familiar? It's their MO for the past 8 years with Bush.

know it's not what you want to hear, Jes, but I wonder if pragmatism outweighs principle here.

I certainly hope not. I seem to recall that happening in late 2002 with horrific results.

What cleek said.

Also, in the impeachment process, Blago would have full opportunity to defend himself against the articles of impeachment. There is some assumption he is being impeached on the same charges for whichthe indictment is being sought. That is only partially so.

And this is a justification not to seat him? That's ridiculous.

Actually, yes. Burris's poor judgment and lack of principle beyond selfish careerism are perfectly good reasons for me to oppose his being seated.

Edmund, the problem with Bedtime's suggestion isn't so much the insertion as the siding with Blagojevich. That just seems insane to me, and I worry that so many apparently Democratic-leaning blog commenters are echoing the rally-round-Blago advice that the Republican trolls are giving.

I don't understand what the holdup is with the impeachment. What is the Illinois legislature expecting will happen? They more than anyone else should be aware that Blagojevich is unlikely to do like Spitzer or McGreevey and put other considerations ahead of his personal power.

Burris's poor judgment and lack of principle beyond selfish careerism are perfectly good reasons for me to oppose his being seated.

I don't see how that can be. The reasons have to be about his appointment, not about him, since the Senate has no right to judge qualifications in the extremely broad way you're suggesting.

What cleek said.

What john miller said.

Thanks

Just want to de-lurk a moment to say Edmund Dantes, John, cleek and bedtimeforbonzo seem to have the better of this argument.

All Reid's hyper-ventilation is/was the problem. Burris was appointed by the sitting Governor and he should serve the two years. Rule of law, Harry. Plus what John said about the egomaniacs of this particular good-ole boy network and the sheer hypocrisy of that groups outrage over a guy being caught practicing politics on tape.

Plus what John said about the egomaniacs of this particular good-ole boy network and the sheer hypocrisy of that groups outrage over a guy being caught practicing politics on tape.

"Everybody does it" is almost always a poor excuse in politics. Doubly so when "it" is as textbook a form of corruption as selling a Senate seat.

I'm not at all convinced that everybody does do this. But if they do, they should all be impeached and indicted.

KCinDC. I totally agree they should have done it forthwith. If they think he's impeachable, impeach him. However they chose not to for any number of reasons.

I'm not from Illinois so I'm not a 100% sure why they haven't, but I've heard several reasons. Some think they are afraid to because they know of lot of them might get implicated in any number of other corruption angles. Some were hoping Fitzy would do the job for them (classic spineless Dem move). Some were hoping the guy that hasn't shown one iota of doing teh right thing before will suddenly develop a conscience, not be vindicative, and not appoint someone before resigning. etc. (another classic Stockholm syndrome dem move) Some were probably hoping Reid and the Senate would take care of the problem for them.

I want to be clear that I don't agree with what the Governor did or that I agree with Burris taking the appointment, but I have yet to see anything legally showing his appointment of Burris was illegal or invalid.

What cleek said.

What john miller said.

What Russell said.

Besides, what's this complaint that Burris is an egomaniac? Since when does that disqualify anyone from being a Senator?

There is no legal basis for refusing Burris' seat. Blago is still the governor, and the legislature has neither impeached him nor removed his authority to make this appointment. Nor is there any evidence Burris paid bribes for the seat.

The proper course of action is to seat him but for the DSCC to fund a primary challenge in 2010.

All state legislatures should remove governors' power to fill Senate vacancies. All vacancies should go to immediate special elections.

Edmund, I can't imagine how they could have thought Reid and the Senate could take care of the problem. The Senate can sometimes keep people out, but it can't just select senators on its own. Either Blagojevich has to be removed from office (which almost certainly requires action by the legislature) or the law regarding appointments is changed (which definitely requires it). There is nothing the Senate can do.

I agree that the appointment of Burris is likely valid, but I don't fault Reid and other Democrats for doing what they can to resist it, especially if the Illinois secretary of state is giving them an excuse.

How would the impeachment and removal of Blagojevich change the legal status of his appointment of Burris? It wouldn't. Laws signed or vetoed by a governor are still deemed signed or vetoed, even if he is subsequently impeached and removed. It is the same with this appointment, which is a unilateral power of the governor, not subject to confirmation by any other entity. A new governor cannot appoint a new senator, because there is no vacancy; it has already been filled. The appointment cannot be defeated by the secretary of state's refusal to sign it; that would transfer the power to appoint from the governor to the secretary of state, contrary to law. And the Senate cannot indefinitely refuse to recognize the appointment on the grounds that it hasn't been signed by the secretary of state, because the rule requiring that signature is a Senate procedural rule, not a law, and therefore junior to the Constitution and the law. The relevant questions are whether Burris is constitutionally eligible to be a senator (he is) and whether he was in fact appointed by the person with legal power to appoint him (he was). If you wanted to block Blagojevich from appointing a senator, you needed to remove Blagojevich from office before he appointed someone. That didn't happen. It's a valid appointment. Swear the man in, and let's get on with business.

No one should feel sorry for Roland Burris. Not when he's got this.

"The Democratic Party can't get its act together to impeach Bush, Cheney, or Rumsfeld, but surely can to impeach Blagojevich."

The Illinois State legislature isn't the U.S. Congress, Jes.

A couple of further comments.

Blago is the consumate politician who also has some luck on his side. His biggest lucky break was that the republicans don't really have much of a bench in Illinois. If they had nominated anyone even halfway respectable and not wingnutty he would probably have lost the last election.

He also is not entirely stupid, which is why, from a purely legal point of view, its almost 50-50 as to whether or not he will be found guilty in a trial. His corruption is one of those types of corruption that is right on the line of legality, and when it stretches over the line, he has some cover built in.

Impeachment is not a criminal trial, and as has been pointed out many times on this site, is really a political instrument. The reason it isn't used all that often is that there has to be a really really strong majority willing to vote guilty.

Up until recently, that probably didn't exist in Illinois. But with his low approval rating, the anger towards him on the part of many Dems in the state, and the fact that the Lieutenant Governor is pretty well liked, the impeachment will proceed. Where the Illinois Dems screwed up was not voting quickly to require a special election to fill the seat, thus taking the option out of Blago's hands.

All that said, the rule of law indicates that Burris should be seated. The fact is the Dems in Illinois and the US Senate screwed up. It doesn't matter that Burris is ego-driven or that Bobby Rush played the race card. All that matters is the letter of the law.

As already indicated by a couple of commenters who think he should be seated, it isn't because they want that to happen, but that it has to happen.

TKD, I wasn't suggesting impeachment would help now (though it might if Burris withdrew afterward), just saying that the legislator should have done it earlier.

"If the evidence hasn't even been presented in a court of law, then who's to say this all might be a lot of sound and not much fury?"

You don't seem to understand that an impeachment is an indictment. That's why the trial follows impeachment.

Impeachments don't follow courts; the legislature serves as the court.

I'm sorry, but you don't seem to know anything at all about how impeachment and legislative trials work. In Illinois, as in most states, impeachment and conviction by the Illinois General Assembly can only follow the recommendation of a State House committee, which also serves as a preliminary indictment. HTH.

"On what grounds, I ask, did Reid duly deny allowing Burris to join the Senate's Old Boys Club?"

As has been reported by every newspaper in the country, his credentials haven't been signed, per legal requirement, by the Illinois Secretary of State. This is not a secret.

Sorry for repeating your link, Ben Alpers.

if an impeachment isn't forthcoming

I believe it *is* forthcoming. Like in the next few days, supposedly. The trial (for removal) is another question.

"The proper course of action is to seat him but for the DSCC to fund a primary challenge in 2010."

Because that would work out so well for the Democratic party.

I really am very startled to see so many regular ObWi characters following the recommendations of the Republicans. Blagojevich will most likely be impeached in a couple of weeks, an appointment will be made by the new governor, and that's that.

There's nothing illegal, unethical, or a bad idea about this. There's absolutely no reason the Senate needs to accept an appointment under these circumstances.

And the idea that there's racism involved here is ludicrous. Illinois has elected a variety of black folks to state-wide office, and will again.

And speaking as a partisan, the idea of seating a Blagojevich-tainted appointee so the Republicans can spend the next two years going on about Obama and Corrupt Illinois Politicians, while meanwhile Illinois politics gets further torn up and down by the need to defeat Burris, while Burris frequently makes news as the tainted incumbent, is so nuts that I have to think any Democrat who thinks this is a good idea is either into self-mutilation, or on acid, or at the least, hasn't remotely begun to think through the results of such a course.

bedtimeforbonzo: I know it's not what you want to hear, Jes, but I wonder if pragmatism outweighs principle here.

Yes, because that worked so well after Nixon. Also, it worked so well after George H. W. Bush. All of the criminals who escaped justice in the 1970s and the 1990s because the Carter and Clinton administrations decided just to let the past be and not rake up old wounds, well, they retired from public life in bitter shame at what they'd done and were never heard from again.

So, that's what Obama should do, too.

No one should feel sorry for Roland Burris. Not when he's got this.

An ego the size of a Winnebago. The man was born for the US Senate.

Blagojevich is governor until the boys in blue haul him away. In IL, vacant US Senate seats are filled by gubernatorial appointment. Blagojevitch appointed Burris.

Assuming the IL Secretary of State credentialing does not prevent him from holding the office, the man should be seated, and everyone should just move on.

No worries, tomorrow will bring some fresh new catastrophe. :(

Thanks -

Some people (e.g., blackink) seem to have a misconception of just what an impeachment is, despite our recent history. It is not a conviction. In the federal system it is a charge brought before the House of Representatives against a government official. If a majority believe that the charge(s) are sufficient enough to bring to trial, the Senate then takes up the trial of the official.

I don't understand what the holdup is with the impeachment. What is the Illinois legislature expecting will happen?

Fitzgerald declined to share his evidence against Blagojevich with the Illinois legislature. Since that evidence presumably includes the 'smoking gun' tapes, it's difficult to proceed without it.

Ben Alpers,

"as textbook a form of corruption as selling a Senate seat."

You got the 'quid' and the 'pro' and the 'quo' on this? And if so why are you sitting on it?

"Blagojevich will most likely be impeached in a couple of weeks, an appointment will be made by the new governor, and that's that.

There's nothing illegal, unethical, or a bad idea about this. There's absolutely no reason the Senate needs to accept an appointment under these circumstances."

The last sentence doesn't follow at all from the rest. The reason the Senate needs to accept the appointment under these circumstances is because the appointment is not made invalid by the fact that there are currently rumors of impeachment.

That is why they should seat him presently.

The appointment will not become invalid even if Blagojevich is impeached unless the impeachment show that the appointment in fact a corrupt appointment.

I think that maybe they could refuse to seat him pending an investigation into whether or not it was a corrupt appointment, but procedurally that looks like an immensely abusable precedent to set.

Laws signed by Blagojevich will still be valid until he is impeached. Appointments will be too.

Basically we have rumors that he *will be* impeached at some point in the near future. These may seem like credible rumors to us. But they are still rumors, and certainly have no force of law.

"All that said, the rule of law indicates that Burris should be seated. The fact is the Dems in Illinois and the US Senate screwed up. It doesn't matter that Burris is ego-driven or that Bobby Rush played the race card. All that matters is the letter of the law."

KC: I think you can support this position, stated here by john miller, and not be guilty of rallying around Blago.

From where I sit -- and I am merely a taxpaying Dem putting in my $.02 -- Reid has fumbled the ball.

Also, to not acknowledge the negative perception of the Senate shutting its Old Boys Club doors on Illinois' Senate designate, who is black, is simply ignoring the obvious.

---

"Blagojevich will most likely be impeached in a couple of weeks, an appointment will be made by the new governor, and that's that."

Gary: How are you so certain of this?

Seb: I see we agree on something. Now about that auto bailout . . .

Also, to not acknowledge the negative perception of the Senate shutting its Old Boys Club doors on Illinois' Senate designate, who is black, is simply ignoring the obvious.

Except that Reid said Blago's appointment would be rejected before we knew it was Burris. Making an exception after the fact, now that would be a double-standard.

I think we (can I say "we?") can all agree on one thing: Reid is a putz.

Unfortunately, Sebastian and bedtimeforbonzo are correct. I wish it weren't so, but I don't see how Burris shouldn't be seated in the Senate. The Illinois Secretary of State doesn't (and shouldn't) have the power to withhold certification, and Burris is constitutionally entitled to be Senator. Reid and Obama made a mistake by making an issue of this.

The only way around it is if the Illinois legislature nullifies the appointment by impeaching Blago based on the acts committed prior to Burris's appointment, and removing, retroactively, Blago's power to appoint. I think the legislature might be able to do something like this lawfully (since the proceeding is political and not criminal) but they have to do something affirmative.

Sorry for repeating your link, Ben Alpers.

No problem, Gary. The world can never have enough exposure to the grandeur of Roland Burris's future resting place. It's the least one can do for a Trail Blazer ;-)

You got the 'quid' and the 'pro' and the 'quo' on this? And if so why are you sitting on it?

keatssycamore, Blago stands accused of trying to sell a Senate seat. I don't personally claim to have the evidence necessary to convict him of anything. I was just affirming the seriousness of the accusation, which you dismissed as "practicing politics on tape."

Agree that 1. there's no reason not to seat Burris (I assume Reid is dragging this out for theatrical reasons) and 2. Reid is a putz.

Unfortunately, Sebastian and bedtimeforbonzo are correct. I wish it weren't so, but I don't see how Burris shouldn't be seated in the Senate. The Illinois Secretary of State doesn't (and shouldn't) have the power to withhold certification, and Burris is constitutionally entitled to be Senator. Reid and Obama made a mistake by making an issue of this.

A number of issues are being mixed together here.

First, should Reid and Obama should have made an issue of a potential Blagojevich Senate appointment? (And, having made an issue, what should they do now that he's made an apointment?)

Second, does the Secretary of State of Illinois have any discretionary power to withhold certification?

Third (and unstated by Sapient), can (or should) the Senate reject an uncertified appointment?

My guess (and it's only a guess) is that the Secretary of State of Illinois does not have the authority to deny certification, but that if the Secretary of State has overstepped his authority, Burriss needs to take that up with the Illinois courts.

Whether or not it ought to do so, the U.S. Senate seems fully within its Constitutional powers to refuse to seat someone whose appointment to the Senate is uncertified, as Burriss's is, at least for the moment.

I should add: I agree wholeheartedly that Reid is a putz, but I'm not yet convinced that he's doing the wrong thing in this case.

I have to say that the sudden influx of different, never-before-seen, names-without-links, posting here on this one topic makes me wonder a bit about the possibility of sock puppets.

"I think that maybe they could refuse to seat him pending an investigation into whether or not it was a corrupt appointment,"

That's exactly what's going on, as I understand it, Sebastian.

"Gary: How are you so certain of this?"

Er, because it's what every news source has reported.

"I assume Reid is dragging this out for theatrical reasons . . ."

Seeing how I fail to see the benefit of such theatrics, I hope the Senate majority leader is not that dumb.

I'm curious, btw, Sebastian, if you also feel Al Franken should be seated immediately.

Meanwhile:

[...] Nancy Erickson, the Senate secretary, initially rejected Burris' appointment Monday because his certificate of appointment was missing the signature of Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White.

One of the Standing Rules of the Senate says that the secretary of state must sign the certificate of election along with the governor.

And the impeachment is proceeding.

Bedtime, the benefit of the theatrics, presumably, is to avoid giving the corrupt Blagojevich's pick a warm embrace and welcome to the Senate. If they have to be forced to let the guy in, it's harder to use him to tarnish Democrats in general.

As has been reported by every newspaper in the country, his credentials haven't been signed, per legal requirement, by the Illinois Secretary of State. This is not a secret.
-------
I don't know the legal ins and outs, but I heard an interview on NPR with the SOS where he admitted he has no legal standing to block the appointment. His refusal to sign apparently is no legal impediment to the appointment.

"His refusal to sign apparently is no legal impediment to the appointment."

Burris has asked the Illinois Supreme Court to rule on it, and it's up to them.

"His refusal to sign apparently is no legal impediment to the appointment."

Oh, and it's not law, it's the Standing Rules of the Senate that's the impediment.

Gary, I can't speak for Seb, but although I think Burris should be seated, Franken shouldn't be. MN law states he can not be while legal proceedings are taking place. Although he has been declared the winner by the canvasing board, botht he SoS and Gov must sign off on it and they can't until Coleman stops being a jerk.

"I'm curious, btw, Sebastian, if you also feel Al Franken should be seated immediately."

I don't even understand why this is a question. At the end of initial recount process, it appears Franken won the election, so of course he should be seated immediately. If it turns out that he didn't because of whatever happens in the legal analysis of the recount process, he can be replaced by the actual winner at that time. Why should the voters not have access to a Senator over the months that it might take to get solid legal rulings on these things. [and while on the topic, for heavens sake people, why can't we have firmer rules on these things, decided in advance, and stuck too whether or not it hurts your candidate today or mine tomorrow?]

John Miller: "Gary, I can't speak for Seb, but although I think Burris should be seated, Franken shouldn't be."

Sebastian: "I don't even understand why this is a question. At the end of initial recount process, it appears Franken won the election, so of course he should be seated immediately."

Well, there's a bit of an unusual switch, I must say.

FWIW, I agree with Seb's thinking on the Franken issue, it is just that the law doesn't allow for him to be seated.

And yes, it is rather a switch.

Sebastian's reply works as an explanation of a way it might be good for things to work, but it seems to be ignoring Minnesota law.

John, doesn't Illinois law require that the appointment be signed by the secretary of state? If so, I don't understand why the Senate shouldn't wait for that to happen. I suspect that's the inconsistency that Gary's wondering about (ignoring IL law but following MN law).

Where the heck did this idea that conviction of a crime is the standard for impeachment? Forget that, where did the idea that committing a crime is the only act worthy of impeachment?

I bet that nothing would have ever been done with Bush Jr. and Cheney anyway, but I wonder what the impeachment talk might have become if Democrats hadn't raised the bar so effin' high with Clinton.

Mike

From Gary's Chicago Tribune link: "Members of the impeachment panel seemed unfazed by the possibility that any release of the tapes could come too late for them.

"Rep. Frank Mautino, D-Spring Valley, said that if the tapes come too late they can always go to the Illinois Senate, which would take up impeachment if it is first approved by the House.

"'I don't think the committee should wait,' said minority spokesman Jim Durkin, R-Westchester. The panel had 'amassed a significant amount of information to make an informed decision,' he said.

"Committee member Lou Lang, a Skokie Democrat, has said the tapes are not crucial to the committee and it has collected enough evidence to make an informed decision.

"'It is important that we get the tapes if we can get them in an expeditious way,' Lang said. 'If we cannot get them in an expeditious way, the committee I think is prepared to move forward.'"

I guess my confidence in the Illinois legislature isn't as strong as Gary's: I would not bet on impeachment hearings being conducted by the end of the month.

"but I wonder what the impeachment talk might have become if Democrats hadn't raised the bar so effin' high with Clinton . . ."

I am not sure I follow, Mike.

Clinton did not commit a crime, and he was impeached.

How is that setting the bar so effin' high?

I agree that the Clinton impeachment probably prevented a Bush impeachment, but it wasn't because of the bar was raised too high for Clinton. It was because the Clinton impeachment was so transparently motivated by partisanship that it made it easier to portray any future suggestion of impeaching the president as similarly bogus.

If there is something unusual in the MN law I suppose it could change my mind, but my initial impression is that the initial round is done, and that certification should occur. If mere litigation, which can go on just under forever, can hold up the seating of the apparent winner, that seems like a poorly drafted law. But then again, many election laws seem to be. If the law really is idiotic enough that you can't seat a Senator so long as there is any small legal avenue to be explored I suppose he can't be seated. I understand that Coleman asserts that the law in such a state, but I hadn't seen that in fact he was correct.

The reason I'm not impressed by the Secretary of State certification argument is because it seems that people are confused about what it means. The Secretary of State certification is not a veto point. Pretending that it is would be a horrific precedent.

It is merely a confirmation that the document in question really came from the office of the governor. The Secretary of State is not empowered to decline to confirm that a document really came from the governor's office if it did in fact do so. There are probably rules in place about what to do if the the governor is impeached, but as of yet he has not been impeached. The Secretary of State certification is not what makes the appointment valid. The governor's appointment does that. The Secretary of State seal is intended to convey the authenticity of a document to someone who might not know. That would be precisely no one important at this point in the situation.

FWIW, Gallup says of national sentiment:

[...] Interest in the dispute is high — six in 10 are following it closely — and support for Burris is scant. By nearly 2-1, 51% to 27%, those surveyed say the Senate should block him from taking his seat. A similar majority, 52%, say Illinois should hold a special election as soon as possible to fill the office.

"It was because the Clinton impeachment was so transparently motivated by partisanship that it made it easier to portray any future suggestion of impeaching the president as similarly bogus."

I agree with KCinDC and suggest that the GOP pissin' on Clinton -- and Clinton giving it the opportunity to do so -- has tarnished the spirit of having impeachment as part of our checks-and-balances system.

Not saying it is right, but I think Jes should consider this when we like-minded Dems assert that it is unlikely that Bush, Cheyney, et al, will face impeachment proceedings.

As more folks start digging into Burris and his relationship with Blago, more interesting stuff is starting to surface, as it was bound to do concerning a lobbiest like Burris who has close political ties to Blago and his wife. According to this piece http://www.huffingtonpost.com/carol-felsenthal/did-roland-burriss-busine_b_155169.html>over at the Huffington Post’s Chicago blog by Carol Felsenthal, Blago’s wife may have benefited from a Burris lifeline as the Feds were closing in on her. The question, of course, is whether there was a quid pro quo. Given Burris’s increasing moral bankruptcy, it’s probably more likely than not that both Burris and Blago benefited from the Burris appointment. The only real question is who got what and was it done legally.


Bedtime, the benefit of the theatrics, presumably, is to avoid giving the corrupt Blagojevich's pick a warm embrace and welcome to the Senate. If they have to be forced to let the guy in, it's harder to use him to tarnish Democrats in general.

That's my take too. Legally Reid and the Senate can delay seating Burris but ultimately after it has all been hashed out in the courts I don't see how they can block him from being seated.

I think this is a bit of Kabuki designed not so much to block Burris as to make it harder for the GOP to spend the next 2 years hitting the Dems over the head with "corrupt IL machine politics" as a slogan. Not that the GOP won't try anyway, but putting some distance between Burris and the rest of the Dems in the Senate will take the edge off of that particular attack, or at least so they hope.

And yes, in more general terms, comparing Reid with milquetoast is an insult to milque and a slap in the face to toast.

I'm a lobby, she's lobbyer, he's the lobbiest.

;-)

From RAM's Huffpo link: "Burris & Lebed Consulting represents numerous clients in front of the Chicago City Council, Cook County Board of Commissioners, suburban local governments, other governmental units across Illinois, Illinois General Assembly, the Governor's Office and other local elected and appointed officials."

So Roland Burris is guilty of being a partner in a high-profile lobbying firm?

Unless as RAM noted, there is an expressed quid pro quo, Blago's only offense in appointing Burris -- and Burris' in accepting it -- is bad judgment.

I imagine this Burris appointment -- as we are seeing with the Bill Richardson situation -- has made a lot of elected officials squeamish if only because this game of Six Degrees of Separation of So-and-So could make most of them seem guilty of something.

---

"I think this is a bit of Kabuki designed not so much to block Burris as to make it harder for the GOP to spend the next 2 years hitting the Dems over the head with 'corrupt IL machine politics' as a slogan."

Makes sense, so perhaps I was not giving Reid enough credit.


"I'm a lobby, she's lobbyer, he's the lobbiest."

Thanks, Gary, for boiling down what I was trying to say, while I was trying to say it, in just a few words:)

I'm in favor of the Senate Dems seating Burris, and then immediately calling for a vote to expel him--all the while making clear that if Blago's replacement (or a special election, or whatnot) returns Burris to the Senate, he'll be accepted. Of course, they'd need Republican votes to actually carry through the expulsion; but if Burris keeps the seat only because of Senate Republicans refusing to expel him, the Democrats have a pretty good defense against later Republican attacks.

The best outcome would be to rewind the whole mess and have Obama keep the senate seat.

All these arguments about the SOS signing some document or other make no sense. If the SOS has the option to sign or not sign then it's the SOS, not the Governor, who has the power to appoint the Senator. That can't be right.

I myself like Dave's solution. Let Obama retain the seat, along with the Presidency, of course.

Gary Farber wrote, "There's absolutely no reason the Senate needs to accept an appointment under these circumstances."

But, yes, there is: the Supreme Court ruling in Powell v. McCormack strictly limits Congress's ability to reject members. They can only reject members who do not meet the minimum constitutional guidelines (age, residency, citizenship), or who were not actually elected, or not actually appointed.

None of that applies in the case of Burris. He is eligible; he was actually appointed. There is nothing in the law that permits the Senate to reject his membership on the grounds that they don't like Blagojevich.

See Erwin Chemerinsky's article:
http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-oe-chemerinsky6-2009jan06,0,2315785.story

Well, things apparently have gotten even more complicated and annoying for poor old inept Harry Reid. Apparently now Dianne Feinstein, perhaps still disgruntled about Leon Panetta, has said that Burris should be seated.

Charming.

bedtimeforbonzo hits the nail on the head with this one:

"On what grounds, I ask, did Reid duly deny allowing Burris to join the Senate's Old Boys Club?"

While there may be a legal reason they can put it off until the signatures come through, will they seat him if the Secretary of State is forced to sign it?

Is it really that big of deal if they just let him be appointed? Unless somebody has evidence that Burris was appointed illegally, what's the big deal? Somehow I think all the hand wringing by Harry Reid is simply because it is their Good Old Boys club. If Burris was already a member of the club, you would see a completely different dynamic.

"There is nothing in the law that permits the Senate to reject his membership on the grounds that they don't like Blagojevich."

That's not a claim being made.

"See Erwin Chemerinsky's article"

I already read it, but, y'know, as is usually the case, law professors vary in their opinions.

I have no idea how this play out, but I know that a single law professor won't be the ruling authority.

My .02:

Although I did submit a request to the Office of the Governor to be appointed to the Senate seat, I do have to state that Burris was properly appointed and should be seated.

And after seeing the likely millions of words and hundreds of new hours dedicated to arguing any appointment Blago might have made, I can only say this:

"There, but for the grace of Rod, go I."

"Unless somebody has evidence that Burris was appointed illegally, what's the big deal?"

I already briefly explained the politics of it at January 06, 2009 at 03:17 PM earlier in this thread. It's a huge political deal.

"Somehow I think all the hand wringing by Harry Reid is simply because it is their Good Old Boys club."

Somehow I think this is complete nonsense and a Republican talking point.

"I myself like Dave's solution," Bernard Yomtov noted, adding:

"Let Obama retain the seat, along with the Presidency, of course."

lol

---

DR: "Somehow I think all the hand wringing by Harry Reid is simply because it is their Good Old Boys club."

GF: "Somehow I think this is complete nonsense and a Republican talking point."

That may be so, although I think the GOP's strategy through this whole mess -- and if it isn't, it should be -- is to let the actions of Blago, Illinois Democrats, and, now, maybe Reid and Co. speak for themselves.

What's that old saw about not entering the fray when your opponent is doing a perfectly fine job of messing things up on his own?

Still, DR did add: "If Burris was already a member of the club, you would see a completely different dynamic." And I tend to agree.


May the long-time lurker and citizen of the (politically ridiculous) state of Illinois interject something here?

No one ever talks about people like me and what we want. Well I mean sure, they talk about "the people" and "the taxpayers" and all that, but it's all just so much political posturing, isn't it? It's infuriating to see everyone from blog commentators to pundits to Senators tell us who should or should not be our Senator. The only thing MORE infuriating is Blago - a governor long hated in this state (his popularity ratings were on life support and there were rumblings about impeachment for months before Fitzgerald took him into custody [just a few blocks from where I sit!] that day) - what was I saying? Oh yes, the most infuriating thing is the idea that the United States Senate should honor anything this governor does or says.

We don't consider him legitimate. If the people quite loudly say "this man isn't the boss of us", then the Senate should listen to that. That should MATTER, damn it all. Since the only poll I've seen pertaining to public opinion on the Burris "appointment" is a national one (another thing to infuriate me, reading what everyone *outside* of Illinois wants), I think the fact that the IL state legislature has very strong public support for the impeachment proceedings is a good gauge of the governor's legitimacy, according to the people.

I certainly would not have had any objections to Burris if anyone but Blago would have appointed him. (That was before he pulled on his clown shoes and stepped out on this very large, bright stage. Now, I am in complete agreement with publius. The guy is just an embarrassment.) But I have a big problem with anyone legitimizing Rod The Sociopath's actions. Everyone talks about politics, and the political maneuverings, and what about this technicality and that one, and which way can we twist this letter of the law and that legal precedent, and on and on and on. But the essential thing is that I'm living in a state full of people who are being completely ignored, when it's THEIR voice that should be mattering most.

Maybe a special election is too much to ask for, but honoring the Really Obvious Sentiments Of The Citizens shouldn't be. At least pretend that said sentiments are even a factor.

Of course I coulda skipped all that whining and just said "I agree with Gary", which I often mutter to myself from my lair of lurkerdom. But I needed to whine, so thanks for providing a forum.

"I think the GOP's strategy through this whole mess -- and if it isn't, it should be -- is to let the actions of Blago, Illinois Democrats, and, now, maybe Reid and Co. speak for themselves."

It's clearly to try to taint Obama, and Reid, and the Senate Democrats, with:

a) Blagojevich's corruption, and "Chicago machine corruption," as much as possible.

b) Whatever suggestion of "racism" in rejecting Burris they can manage to sell.

c) whatever level of "the Democrats aren't being democratic" they can get across.

and d) distract as much as possible from the news of what the Democrats intend to do.

So Publius is right about the "great distractor," and that's the goal and strategy of the Republican leadership.

Which you're buying into by blaming Harry Reid for trying to prevent all this.

"If Burris was already a member of the club, you would see a completely different dynamic."

What, if he were already in the Senate, he'd have no trouble being appointed to the Senate?

In any case, Blagojevich intended to throw a stick of dynamite at Democrats, and he's succeeded.

There is no sound LEGAL argument against seating Burris. There is a weak procedural one, and there is a pretty strong Moral one. Just because something is legal, doesn't make it right. If a man beats his wife, and it takes him 6 months to get convicted of battery, he doesn't become a wife beater upon conviction he becomes a felon. Blago is corrupt NOW. He is an employee of the state of Illinois, who can be removed from office through impeachment proceedings. He doesn't have a 'right' to anything but for his day in court eventually. His freedom is not an issue here, his job is. Taking his job away is (and should be) much easier than taking away his liberty.

I think not seating Burris is a very dangerous precedent. I think it sends all sorts of terrible messages, and has some really troubleing implications. I also think if there is a situation where it is warranted to take such drastic measures this is it.

Here's the relevant facts:

Blagojevich tried to sell Obama's vacant senate seat
Blago repeatedly shook down various entities for campaign contributions in exchange for state dollars. A childrens hospital is probably the most egregious example but there are others.

This is not merely "playing politics" this is honest services fruad.

We know he did these things because he is recorded on a wire talking about them. The origin of the recording is not in dispute.

Being the Governor of Illinois is a privilege, not a right.

You or I may be fired from our job without an indictment or a criminal trial. At-will employees can be fired without cause. A governor can be impeached if he is allegedly said to be unfit for office.

Impeachment proceedings take time to get out of committee and have a trial associated with them. The rules of evidence are not the same as for a criminal trial. The burden of proof is not the same. It's actually not clear what the differences are, they are not explitly defined in the state constitution. Impeachment takes time, but its going to happen eventually. Well it should anyway.

I'm not surprised there is controversy over this issue. Unlike some people, I do think this situation is very complicated, with differing interests that have to be taken into consideration. It's just not as simple as those either for or against Burris would suggest.

As an aside, who is more arrogant? Burris? or Blago?

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