Monday, January 12, 2009

Burris Cleared (but only with Sec'y of State's Signature)

The Senate cleared Roland Burris this afternoon as a temporary replacement to fill President-Elect Barack Obama's seat.  NYT The Caucus reports here.  This was the constitutional thing to do, but the Senate did it for the wrong constitutional reasons. 

The Senate seated Burris only after Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White finally provided his signature (apparently an auto-pen) and seal.  (As we could have predicted--as we did predict!--this was unnecessary to validate the governor's appointment under Illinois law.  The Illinois Supreme Court so ruled on Friday.)

As I've posted before--most recently here--it's not at all clear to me how this Senate rule trumps the plain language of the Seventeenth Amendment and Illinois state law.  Blagojevich appointed Burris properly under the Seventeenth Amendment and Illinois state law.  There was no indication of wrong-doing or corruption in this appointment, and Burris was clearly "qualified."  The Senate's rule must yield to the Seventeenth Amendment and the limitations on the Senate's ability to judge elections, returns, and qualifications. 

The Senate should have seated Burris with Blagojevich's appointment.  Period.

Well, it's done now.  And apparently without the provisional status that was floating around--a seat without prejudice--presumably so that the Senate could continue to investigate his "election" and "return," even if it lacked authority to un-seat him on these grounds.  (See my previous post.)  That's good news, but for the wrong reason.


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