Tuesday, December 30

THE ILLINOIS SENATE SEAT CONT'D

NY Times - Democrats said they were confident of their standing under Article I, Section 5 of the Constitution, which says “each House shall be the Judge of the Elections, Returns and Qualifications of its own members.” On rare occasion, the Senate has denied seats to candidates whose election outcome was in doubt or who were caught up in corruption.

Yet constitutional experts question the extent of that authority, particularly in light of a 1969 Supreme Court decision in the case of Adam Clayton Powell Jr. of New York. The court found that the House could not bar Mr. Powell, who had been accused of financial impropriety, if he met the constitutionally determined qualifications for age, citizenship and residency.

“I think the best reading of the text of the Constitution and the Powell case together is that the Senate has to seat Burris,” said Abner S. Greene, the Leonard F. Manning professor of law at Fordham University School of Law.

Senior Democratic aides said the party leadership decided to respond forcefully after first learning from Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate, that Mr. Blagojevich was ready to move despite earlier warnings from the Senate that he should step aside and allow his successor to name a new senator.

The majority leader, Senator Harry Reid, convened a call of his aides from his home in Searchlight, Nev., followed by a conference call among Mr. Reid, Mr. Durbin, Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey and others. The unquestioned consensus, aides said, was that Democrats should make their position known before the governor’s announcement. Mr. Burris is an African-American, and the idea that Democrats would be preventing a respected black politician from taking a seat was raised. It was not considered a deterrent, however, since the issue they were focused on was the inquiry over the handling of the Senate appointment by Mr. Blagojevich.

“It had nothing to do with Burris,” said Jim Manley, Mr. Reid’s top spokesman. “Anyone picked by this guy would be tainted.”

A statement issued by the Democratic leadership said bluntly that anyone appointed by Mr. Blagojevich “will not be seated by the Democratic caucus.”

Telegraph, UK - Congressman Bobby Rush dared white Democratic senators to block a black man from joining their ranks. He urged people "not to hang or lynch the appointee as you try to castigate the appointer" and, after saying repeatedly that Burris would be the only African-American in the Senate, said that he believed no senator would want "to go on record to deny one African-American from being seated in the US Senate".

Rush is a former Black Panther who trounced Barack Obama in the 2000 Democratic primary when the then state senator challenged him for his House of Representatives seat.

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