The Corner

About That Statement on Burris

Reid and Durbin have released the following statement:

The Secretary of the Senate has determined that the new credentials presented today on behalf of Mr. Burris now satisfy Senate Rules and validate his appointment to the vacant Illinois Senate seat.  In addition, as we requested, Mr. Burris has provided sworn testimony before the Illinois House Committee on Impeachment regarding the circumstances of his appointment…

Accordingly, barring objections from Senate Republicans, we expect Senator-designee Burris to be sworn in and formally seated later this week…We are pleased that everything is now in order, we congratulate Senator-designee Burris on his appointment and we look forward to working with him in the 111th Congress.

I got the impression when Reid first spoke on the Burris affair that he was ready to refuse a tainted appointment, even if it was legitimate from a legal perspective. Recall that Reid originally invoked the Senate’s constitutional prerogative to bar entry to Burris on the basis of his appointment being illegitimate, given that the appointer had allegedly tried to sell the Senate seat.

But Senate Democrats did not hold to this principled argument, which could have resulted in a constitutional crisis. Instead, they fell back on the technicality of Burris’s credentials — he could not be seated because had not been vouched for by Illinois’s Secretary of State Jesse White — as though this were just a routine paperwork problem and no different from any other appointment.

That position was absurd, because it would have allowed secretaries of state to override gubernatorial appointments. So it’s nice to see that that the paperwork issue has been resolved, but what about the original argument about protecting the integrity of the Senate from elected officials like Rod Blagojevich?

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