Monday, January 5, 2009

Harry Reid Has No Business Negotiating about Seating Roland Burris, Who Was Duly Appointed

Jim Warren on Hardball was just talking about how Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is likely to not stand in the way of Roland Burris taking his U.S. Senate seat, as long as Burris agrees not to run for the seat in the 2010 election. Reid was said to be concerned that Burris and the circumstances of his current appointment might make him a poor candidate in 2010. Reid had already signaled, over the weekend, that he was willing to "negotiate" with Burris about this.

I hope Burris does nothing of the sort. He was appointed to the seat by a sitting governor, as per the laws of the state of Illinois. Who, exactly, is Reid, or anyone, to demand that Burris negotiate for that seat, and attempt to exact a price or a promise in return for his taking that seat?

As I've been saying in several posts about Rod Blagojevich, he has been charged with a crime. He has not been indicted, or impeached, or found guilty in a trial in either case. Meanwhile, Prosecutor Fitzgerald has asked for more time, to put together his case against Blagojevich. That's fine - but is the state of Illinois to be put on hold while a Prosecutor is getting his case in order, before it has even been presented to a grand jury for possible indictment?

This is why we have laws in this country - to regulate how we proceed, rather than proceeding on the basis of what we think we know to be true. Harry Reid may think that Blagojevich is guilty, and Reid may be right. But the law has no provision for the exercise of these unproven thoughts, and until these charges are considered by a grand jury, in a court of law, and/or by the state government of Illinois for possible impeachment and trial, Reid should stop obstructing the law. (Even if Blagojevich is ultimately removed from office, he was still the duly elected Governor of Illinois when he made the appointment.) Wheeling and dealing about seating a duly appointed Senator, for political reasons, to improve the Democratic Party's chances of winning in 2010, is not much better than what Blagojevich has been accused of. Not to mention that, for all we know, Roland Burris may be prove to be a strong candidate in 2010, after all.

*Note added January 6, 2009: Roland Burris was turned away from the Senate this morning. The reason given was that his paperwork was incomplete - his appointment had not been "certified" by the Illinois Secretary State. But absent any explanation of why the appointment made by a sitting governor is illegal - what law was violated in Burris' appointment - the Illinois Secretary of State's action, and the US Senate's, remains an affront to our rule of law.

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