Tuesday, December 30

SENATE DEMS REFUSE TO SEAT GOVERNOR'S CHOICE

The Hill - Senate Democratic leaders are refusing to seat Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s choice for President-elect Obama’s former seat.

Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) issued a joint statement blasting Blagojevich for naming Roland Burris to the seat and said they will block his appointment.

"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," Reid and Durbin said.

"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."

Questions remain as to what authority the Senate has when it comes to accepting or rejecting a gubernatorial appointment.

Associate Senate Historian Don Ritchie said the four examples since 1913 include Democrat Theodore Bilbo of Mississippi, who died while a Senate committee was investigating corruption charges against him in 1947; Republican Frank Smith of Illinois, whom the Senate voted against seating due to corruption charges in 1928, and Democrats Henry Clayton and Franklin Glass of Alabama, both of whom withdrew their bids in 1913 after a dispute arose over the governor's authority to appoint them.

Ritchie also said senators are often seated but then investigated by the chamber's Rules Committee to determine whether any charges against the senator have merit.

That was the case in Sen. Mary Landrieu's case, Ritchie noted for example. The Louisiana Democrat won a narrow election in 1996 and was seated while the Rules Committee probed charges of voter fraud before ultimately exonerating Landrieu after 10 months.

But Ritchie conceded the Blagojevich situation was different.
"We really haven’t had a case like this,” he said. "There’s just nothing quite comparable.”

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