Hamilton, Madison, and Jay

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Friday, January 9, 2009

File this under "Duh" or "we told you so"

The Burris controversy just hit Senate Democrats in the mouth again. Roland Burris filed a writ of mandamus to the Illinois state supreme court to compel the secretary of state to sign off on his appointment. Not only did they reject the writ, but they reminded Burris that no signature was necessary:

The Illinois Supreme Court today rejected Roland Burris' effort to get the signature he needs to complete his appointment to the U.S. Senate.The court's unanimous ruling tosses the issue back to Washington. Democratic U.S. Senate leaders, including Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, now will have to decide whether to hold firm to their insistence that Burris get a signature on his appointment form from Illinois Secy. of State Jesse White before gaining admittance.

President-elect Barack Obama told Senate leadership earlier this week that he wanted the Burris issue resolved quickly, putting pressure on Durbin and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). The two senators offered no immediate reaction today, but Durbin has scheduled a 3:30 p.m. news conference.

Burris was asking the state's high court to force White to sign the certification of appointment naming Burris to the seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama. Gov. Rod Blagojevich named Burris to the Senate seat last week, but White refused to sign the required paperwork because the governor has been charged with crimes that include trying to sell the Senate seat. When Burris tried to get sworn in Tuesday, the Senate refused, citing the lack of White's signature.

The ruling left it up to the U.S. Senate to seat Burris, even though Senate Democratic leaders in Washington had cited a Senate rule (known as Rule II) that required the signature of the governor and the secretary of state to validate an appointment. Senate Democrats had said no one had been admitted without following the rule since the mid-1800s and listed it as one of two conditions--the other being Burris's testimony yesterday before the Illinois House impeachment panel, as pre-cursors to being admitted to the Senate.

But Illinois Supreme Court Justice Lloyd A. Karmeier said White's signature was not needed for Burris to be seated in the Senate.

"We note...that nothing in the published rules of the Senate, including Rule II, appears to require that Senate appointments made by state executives pursuant to the 17th amendment must be signed and sealed by the state's secretary of state. Moreover, no explanation has been given as to how any rule of the Senate, whether it be formal or merely a matter of tradition, could supersede the authority to fill vacancies conferred on the states by the federal constitution. Under these circumstances, the Senate's actions cannot serve as the predicate for a mandamus action against the Secretary of State. The only issue before us is whether the Secretary of State, an official of this state, failed to perform an act required of him by the law of Illinois. He did not."

Thank you, thank you, thank you. We only explained this in-depth back on Monday and Wednesday. There was no need for the signature and Harry Reid used it as a sort of delaying tactic. The ball is now back in Harry's court, and he only has two options available to him.

He can lay this all to rest and seat Burris. (Of course, that means he has to swallow his arrogant pride, which he isn't likely to do willingly.)

Or, he can punt the Burris appointment to the Rules Committee, and tie him up there while the committee checks to see if he was involved in any shenanigans to get the seat. (Captain Ed went over that possibility this morning.)

But either way one looks at this issue, Harry Reid had better get used to one word that would serve him well as he tries to assert power he thinks he has and doesn't really possess. The word is "checkmate."

Publius II

UPDATE: HT to DrewM at AoSHQ for the Senate Democrat's reaction. From MSNBC:

A senior Senate Democratic aide involved says that "Burris is where he was a week ago" and cannot be seated in the US Senate.

In essence, the Illinois ruling appears to find that the Roland Burris appointment does not require Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White to certify it for it to be official under Illinois state law. But while Illinois statute doesn't appear to require Secretary of State's signature, the Senate rules do, according to the interpretation of Senate Democratic Leadership.

Earlier this week Democratic Leaders made it clear that under Senate -- NOT state rules -- Burris' election certificate would have to be signed both by the governor and the Illinois Secretary of State.

Ahem. Memo to Democrats in the Senate. First of all, bucking the order from the Illinois state supreme court, I believe, is an example of indirect contempt; a refusal to follow said order without being in the presence of the judges. Secondly, Senate rules can't supersede the US Constitution. How explicit is the Constitution on this matter? Quite specific and explicit, as a matter of fact:

"When vacancies happen in the representation of any state in the Senate, the executive authority of such state shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies ..."

Toss in Powell v. McCormack for giggles, and the last leg Harry Reid was standing on just cut out from underneath him. What part of this do these fools not get? Roland Burris can't be denied his seat, legally. What Harry Reid is doing is trying to embarrass both Blagojevic and Burris and he's not. He making an ass of himself. The problem is that Democrats don't care. They won't move to censure him, nor will they move to remove him as majority leader. They're going to continue letting this fool make a mockery out of the Senate.

Publius II


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