The Democrats in the Senate, headed by Harry Reid, picked an unnecessary battle over the appointment of Roland Burris, former Illinois Attorney General by Governor Blagojevich of Illinois to fill Barack Obama's vacated Senate seat. This battle reminds one of the British military action during the founding of this country. Their style of forming lines, shooting, then retreating while another line took their place exemplifies the drama being played out in Illinois and Washington.
First, the Secretary of State of Illionis refused to certify Roland Burris's appointment. The real question is whether the Secreatary of State has the right to willfully neglect a duty entrusted to his office. The Illinois code(10 ILCS 5/25‑5) (from Ch. 46, par. 25‑5) is straightforward on the subject. It states:
“When a vacancy shall occur in the office of United States Senator from this state, the Governor shall make temporary appointment to fill such vacancy until the next election of representatives in Congress, at which time such vacancy shall be filled by election, and the senator so elected shall take office as soon thereafter as he shall receive his certificate of election.”
The code,(15 ILCS 305/5) (from Ch. 124, par. 5), also states "Sec. 5. It shall be the duty of the Secretary of State:
1. To countersign and affix the seal of state to all commissions required by law to be issued by the Governor.
Secretary White has no discretion in this matter. The code mandates his signature.
The next British line came up after retreat. The Illinois Attorney General, Lisa Madigan, earlier this month sought to question Gov. Blagojevich’s authority under that provision, citing federal criminal investigators’ contentions that he sought to sell the Obama seat for personal gain. In this case the Governor has not been indicted or charged with any crime up to this point. The Illinois Supreme Court refused to hear her case without explanation.
A Congressional Research study titled "Status of a Member of the House Who Has Been Indicted for or Convicted of a Felony" dated October 5, 2007 clearly states:
"If a sitting Member of Congress is indicted for a criminal offense that constitutes a felony, the status and service of that Member is not directly affected by any federal statute or Rule of the House of Representatives. No rights or privileges are forfeited under the Constitution, statutory law, or the Rules of the House merely upon an indictment for an offense, prior to an establishment of guilt under our judicial system.
Once a Member of the House is convicted of a crime that is a felony, certain potential consequences exist relevant to his or her status as a Member of the House. It should be noted that Members of Congress do not automatically forfeit their offices upon conviction of a crime that constitutes a felony. There is no express constitutional disability or “disqualification” from Congress for the conviction of a crime, other than under the Fourteenth Amendment for certain treasonous conduct."
If the House of Representatives has such constitutional protections how can the Senate impose or restrict Roland Burris from taken his seat when he has no convictions? This issue is not about race, even though there are no African-Americans in the Senate right now. The issue centers on Harry Reid's theory and political strategy that Burris will lose the seat to a Republican. His personal strategy will tarnish and challenge Barack Obama's chances for a smooth transition already marred by Richardson.