Senate appointee Roland Burris is set to meet with Majority Leader Harry Reid on Wednesday. The former would be wise to ask only one question:
What’s the legal basis for excluding me when state Democrats declined to strip Governor Blagojevich of his appointment power and there’s not a shred of evidence that my appointment is the result of impropriety?
If the best answer Reid can muster is “Blago is a crook,” Burris has got a darn good case. And Burris knows it:
As for whether the charges against Blagojevich taint the appointment — the central argument against seating Burris — the would-be senator and his allies are citing other high-profile elected officials who acted improperly yet still carried out their duties.
“He’s exercising his constitutional responsibilities and authority,” Burris said of Blagojevich in an interview on PBS Friday. “One other example is with my good friend, President Clinton, was also impeached. He was still carrying on the duties and responsibility of the presidency.”
Referring Saturday to appointments made by Clinton and former President Richard Nixon, [Burris consultant Prince] Riley added: “Were any of their judges pulled off the bench?”
Meanwhile, Sen. John Cornyn — who as head of the Republican Senate Campaign Committee will have the job of recruiting and winning seats for the Republicans in 2010 — is going in for the kill, according to this report:
Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said Reid “has led the charge to deny the people of Illinois a voice” in the process. To be sure, Republicans like Cornyn would rather see a special election in Illinois because it would give the GOP a shot at capturing the seat.
According to a Chicago Sun-Times report Saturday, Reid called Blagojevich on Dec. 3 and urged him to tap either state Veteran Affairs Director Tammy Duckworth or state Attorney General Lisa Madigan, both Democrats, to fill the seat. Blagojevich was arrested less than a week later on corruption charges that included allegations he was trying to sell the seat to the highest bidder.
The paper also reported that Reid advised the Illinois governor against selecting state Senate President Emil Jones, a mentor of President-elect Barack Obama, or Reps. Jesse Jackson Jr. and Danny Davis —all of whom, Reid reportedly said, would face difficulty holding on to the seat when it is up for election in 2010.
“For the last several weeks, Senator Reid has led the charge to deny the people of Illinois a voice in choosing their next U.S. senator in a special election,” Cornyn said in a Saturday afternoon statement. “Now we learn that Senator Reid also took the extraordinary step to lobby against two sitting U.S. congressmen and the state senate Majority Leader in Illinois, and instead told Governor Blagojevich that he supported an appointment for an individual [Duckworth] who recently lost a U.S. House election.
“The people of Illinois deserve a simple explanation from Senator Reid: Why does he believe these three Illinois officeholders are ‘unelectable’ to the U.S. Senate?” Cornyn added.
The Republicans will eventually have to decide: do they voice support for sitting Burris as the legal appointee of Blago or do they continue to push for a special election to fill the seat (which is only proper if Burris isn’t already the junior Illinois Senator)? But for now they can sit back and ask impertinent questions, making the life of Reid — who, by the way, is also up for re-election in 2010 — that much more difficult.