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Gov. Blagojevich Shows His Chutzpah: Defies Everyone and Fills Senate Seat

Roland Burris

Roland Burris

By Jon Perkins
ticklethewire.com

Embattled Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, defying conventional political wisdom — not to mention U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and his own state Democratic Party — appointed a former longtime Illinois state official to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama.
The appointment of former state comptroller and former state attorney general Roland W. Burris, 71, who is currently a lobbyist, is almost certain to end up in both state and federal courts. Illinois Secretary of State Jessie White has vowed not to certify the governor’s selection. Reid and Senate Democrats — including Dick Durbin, Illinois’ senior senator, have vowed not to seat Burris or any other candidate appointed by Blagojevich.
That means a showdown is virtually certain, raising doubts whether Burris will ever fill the Senate seat.
At an extraordinary Chicago news conference, Blagojevich, who faces federal corruption charges for allegedly trying to auction the Senate seat to the highest bidder, said he is making the appointment because Illinois is “entitled to two U.S. senators.” Blagojevich said that he selected Burris when the legislature failed to move on an alternative appointment process after
he was arrested on a criminal complaint Dec. 9.
“The law requires that the governor make this appointment,” he said.
Blagojevich praised Burris and asked that the “appointee be separated from the appointer.”
“This is about Roland Burris, not about the governor who appointed him.”
Burris, who reportedly has donated about $20,000 to Blagojevich’s campaigns, and whose law and lobbying firms reportedly have had contracts with the state government, declined to comment on his legal woes. Burris also denied having any connection to Blagojevich’s legal woes.
In Washington, Reid issued a statement before the Blagojevich-Burris news conference making clear where Senate Democrats stand.

“It is truly regrettable that despite requests from all 50 Democratic Senators and public officials throughout Illinois, Gov. Blagojevich would take the imprudent step of appointing someone to the United States Senate who would serve under a shadow and be plagued by questions of impropriety. We say this without prejudice toward Roland Burris’s ability, and we respect his years of public service. But this is not about Mr. Burris; it is about the integrity of a governor accused of attempting to sell this United States Senate seat. Under these circumstances, anyone appointed by Gov. Blagojevich cannot be an effective representative of the people of Illinois and, as we have said, will not be seated by the Democratic Caucus.”
That most likely sets the stage for a challenge in federal court. The last similar situation was in 1967 when the House, after a Judiciary Committee investigation, refused to seat Rep. Adam Clayton
Powell (D-N.Y.), who also faced corruption charges. Powell then won the special election to fill the vacancy caused by his exclusion, but did not take his seat. Powell sued to retain his seat. In June 1969
the Supreme Court ruled 8-1 that the House had acted
unconstitutionally when it excluded Powell, a duly elected member.
In Springfield, White’s aides said that the lack of a signature on the form appointing Burris is symbolic and should not have a practical impact on Blagojevich’s appointment.
Burris, at the Chicago news conference, hinted at legal action against White saying “we will deal with the next step in the process,” if White refuses to certify the appointment.


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