[Guest post by DRJ]
Embattled Democratic Governor Rod Blagojevich appointed former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris as Senator to fill the unexpired term of Barack Obama:
“The people of Illinois are entitled to have two United States senators represent them in Washington D.C.,” Blagojevich said. “As governor I am required to make this appointment.”
Burris, standing at the governor’s side, said he’s eager to get to work in Washington. He said he has no connection to the charges against Blagojevich, who was arrested on Dec. 9 and accused of trying to profit from appointing Obama’s replacement.
Burris was the first African-American elected to major statewide office. He’s served as Illinois’ comptroller and ran for governor three times – the last time losing to Blagojevich.”
This appointment appears to be everything Democrats should like in a candidate: A reliable Party man and experienced caretaker who will hold the seat until the next election, but who also has the qualifications to run for the seat himself. Like Obama, he’s black and if he is seated he will be the only black member of the Senate.
The Democrats underestimated Blagojevich and this puts them between a rock and a hard place. Both the national and state Democratic leaders have pitted their power against Blagojevich and he trumped them.
The Illinois leaders disputed Blagojevich’s appointment power and unsuccessfully tried to unseat him under a disability provision. Now their only option is a prolonged impeachment process. Meanwhile, Senate Democrats threatened not to seat anyone he appoints, so they are faced with refusing to seat a Senator appointed in the manner Illinois law provides and who will be the only black member of the Senate.
I expect the Democrats will seat Burris but the next few days should be interesting. I am especially interested in Obama’s response since he promised a post-racial America where circumstances matter more than color. My guess is he may take a pass, saying it’s a political issue that he will leave to the courts and the people of Illinois.
NOTE: Scott Jacobs has more on this at The Jury Talks Back.
UPDATE: I was wrong about Obama’s response. Here’s his statement from ABC’s Jake Tapper:
“Roland Burris is a good man and a fine public servant,” said Obama, “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 Gov. 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 Gov. 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.”
I think this puts even more pressure on the Democratic leaders in the Senate to refuse to seat Burris. I’m not sure that’s in their best interests but maybe they view this as a matter of principle. If so, I hope they stick with it. I like people who act on principle.