When the Illinois governor brashly appointed former state attorney general Roland Burris to Barack Obama's vacated Senate seat, I almost fell out of my chair.
Around here, we are no big fans of the esteemed governor, and look forward to a long, arduous, knock-down-drag-out impeachment process that airs all of the Illinois Democratic Party's dirty laundry.
That said -- and by now, it may well have already hit the fan -- Roland Burris must be seated.
The only argument that Senate Democrats can make for refusing to seat Burris is two-fold: First, Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White must refuse to certify the appointment. Secondly, Senate rules must stipulate that such is a basis for refusing to seat a duly appointed member.
Because as contemptible a human being as Blagojevich might be, and as grotesque as Burris and Rep. Bobby Ryan's race-baiting was on December 30, Blagojevich remains the sitting governor of Illinois. Although under investigation and accused of criminal activity, he has not been impeached, nor has he been deemed unfit to govern by any court, state or federal. In fact, such an argument propounded by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan failed miserably. According to Madigan's tortured logic, Blagojevich was akin to a person who is medically incapacitated.
The bottom line is that Blagojevich is well within his constitutionally granted powers to appoint a replacement for Obama. Not only do the citizens of Illinois deserve a second senator working on their behalf in Washington, but Blagojevich's current situation does nothing to legally handcuff him from naming a replacement.
I understand the oppositional rhetoric coming from Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer and other leading Democrats. This appointment is clearly tainted by the allegations that Blagojevich attempted to sell the vacant seat to the highest bidder. However, neither man has put forth an argument that Blagojevich is acting outside the bounds of his authority as Illinois' chief executive.
Additionally, I am concerned about the precedent that refusing to seat a duly appointed senator might set. It seems to me that Reid and Schumer's argument is based on a highly discretionary standard.
What if Ted Stevens had in fact won re-election, and Sarah Palin had nominated herself to the embattled pork giant's seat? Is such also grounds for refusing to seat a duly appointed nominee?
What if a particular nominee (Robert "Sheets" Byrd, cough, cough) has an overtly racist background, or some other nasty character flaw? Is such likewise grounds for refusing to seat a duly appointed or elected nominee?
I am concerned at where Reid's discretionary standard -- we will refuse to seat a nominee because we believe him to be unfit (and you must trust us) -- will take the Senate in the future. I would have no problem with Reid excluding Burris from the Senate Democratic caucus, but refusing to seat him is another matter entirely.