In what is shaping up to be an unprecedented political row, disgraced Democratic Governor Rod Blagojevich of Illinois has named former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris to replace Barack Obama in the U.S. Senate.
The problem is that the chances of Mr. Burris — a well respected, squeaky clean, more than qualified African-American — ever taking his seat in the Senate chamber are not very good. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid released a statement regarding the Burris appointment where he flatly rejects the idea of seating anyone chosen by the current Illinois governor, who is accused of trying to sell the Senate seat to the highest bidder:
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. We say this without prejudice toward Roland Burris’s ability, and we respect his years of public service. But this is not about Mr. Burris; it is about the integrity of a governor accused of attempting to sell this United States Senate seat. 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.
The statement also called on Blagojevich to “put the interests of the people of Illinois and all Americans first by stepping aside now and letting his successor appoint someone who we will seat.” The statement was endorsed by Illinois’ senior senator, Dick Durbin, who has been calling for a special election to fill the vacancy — something many local Democrats wish to avoid due to the possibility that a Republican might win.
On the heels of Reid’s denial of Burris’s appointment, Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White stated flatly that he would not certify any candidate offered by Blagojevich, saying:
As I have previously stated publicly, I cannot co-sign a document that certifies any appointment by Rod Blagojevich for the vacant United States Senate seat from Illinois.
Although I have respect for former Attorney General Roland Burris, because of the current cloud of controversy surrounding the governor, I cannot accept the document.
It is unclear whether White has the statutory authority to deny Blagojevich his choice or whether any certification in the matter is necessary by the Illinois secretary of state.