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Burris Ups The Ante

Roland Burris isn’t making this any easier on the Democrats. The Wall Street Journal reports:

Roland Burris suggested he would challenge an effort to block his appointment to the Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama, but said he’s confident that Senate Democrats will back down and allow him to take the job.

“We think they will come around and recognize that the appointment is legal and valid and I am the junior Senator from Illinois,” he said in an interview with the Wall Street Journal at his office here.

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, facing federal corruption charges, named Mr. Burris, the 71-year-old former Illinois attorney general, as his choice for the seat on Tuesday. Senate Democrats immediately said they would refuse to seat him, citing allegations against Mr. Blagojevich, who was arrested Dec. 9.

“By what authority can (Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid) deny a governor carrying out his constitutional duty?” Mr. Burris said. “I am the senator. I am the junior senator from Illinois.”

And Burris has a point. Absent any evidence of criminality with regard to the Burris appointment itself, what exactly is the argument to deny him a seat? After all, if there were concern about Blago’s continued powers, the Illinois legislature could have stripped him of the appointment power. Egged on by Harry Reid, they chose against a special election.

Does it reflect poorly upon the Democrats? As David Broder succinctly put it: “The Illinois Democrats have really made a spectacle of themselves.” But since when was that grounds for denying a senator his seat? I think we can predict that, regardless of the legal arguments, the Senate will vote to deny him his seat. Burris can then head to court. By then Burris may need to face off against some other appointee (from the Lt. Governor, after Blago is impeached). Or perhaps by then a special election will be set. In any event, a tangled and protracted legal battle seems to be in the offing. This will make the Franken-Coleman contest look like a picnic.

And the Republicans? This is one of those times when it is best not to interfere with an opponent’s self-destruction.


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