The Wall Street Journal’s editors take no prisoners with this slam at the Senate Democrats:
While the Constitution says the Senate can determine its own membership, the Court in Powell interpreted Article I, Section 5 to say that “in judging the qualifications of its members, Congress is limited to the standing qualifications prescribed in the Constitution.” Nowhere in the Constitution is there a “qualification” saying that a Senator must not have been appointed by an embarrassing Illinois Governor.
Mr. Reid is also attempting the dodge of referring the matter to the Senate Rules Committee, which is run by Democrats, but the Powell precedent ought to be clear even to political lawyers. If Mr. Reid wants to banish Mr. Burris, he must first seat him and then persuade two-thirds of the Senate to expel him. Needless to say, the last thing Mr. Reid wants to do is create turmoil in his party by expelling an African-American Democrat whose only offense has been to accept an appointment to serve. But if Mr. Reid does go that route, we’d suggest worthier expulsion possibilities, such as Connecticut’s Chris Dodd, who received sweetheart mortgages from Countrywide Financial while sitting on the Banking Committee.
Republicans want Illinois to hold a special election for the vacant seat, and we recommended that ourselves (as did Mr. Obama) when the Blagojevich tapes first became public. But now that Mr. Burris has been appointed, Mr. Reid can’t legally deny him his seat. If this is the way Democrats are going to use their new monopoly on Beltway power even against a member of their own party, we’re in for an ugly couple of years.
Aside from the Democrats’ weak legal position, one also has to question their political acumen on this one. Sure, they don’t want an “Appointee of Blago” lurking around the Senate for two years as a constant reminder of their corrupt Governor and their own failure to immediately strip Blago of his appointment powers. But will it be any better with “Appointee of Blago’s Successor”? Really, that would seem to set off a whole new round of second-guessing and speculation about that person’s involvement in the Chicago quagmire.
Indeed, is there any Illinois Democrat who hasn’t given money to Blago, isn’t one of “Senate Candidates #1-5″ and has no ties to any of Blago-gate’s multifaceted schemes? If so, he/she is likely to be a placeholder that will throw open the seat in 2010 anyway.
And to be blunt, how’s it going to look for the Democrats to be blocking Burris after we learn that Harry Reid objected to three other African-American politicians to fill the slot? The Chicago Sun Times reports:
Days before Gov. Blagojevich was charged with trying to sell President-elect Barack Obama’s U.S. Senate seat to the highest bidder, top Senate Democrat Harry Reid made it clear who he didn’t want in the post: Jesse Jackson, Jr., Danny Davis or Emil Jones.
Perhaps the tapes which reportedly captured some of the conversations will reveal why Reid didn’t think any of these politicians could win a state-wide race.
In short, trying to block Burris seems like a huge hassle for very little benefit. Why not accept Burris gracefully, impeach Blago and declare that the party won’t consider (or fund) Burris as the incumbent in 2010? At some point, the Democrats would be wise to cut their losses — and this seems the easiest way to do it. As an added benefit it would also comport with the Constitution.