Roland Burris was turned away by the Secretary of the Senate yesterday, but he’s not going away.
Already, I’ve received campaign news from one of the candidates for Illinois’ 5th congressional district, Tom Geoghegan. A “Chicago lawyer for thirty years,” Geoghegan is a Harvard Law grad so presumably he passed Con Law.
Truth be told, seating Burris is not about racial solidarity. It’s about the rule of law.
In a Los Angeles Times op-ed, Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the UC Irvine School of Law, argues:
Like it or not, Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich has the legal authority to appoint Roland Burris to the U.S. Senate, and Burris, the state’s former attorney general, should be allowed to take the seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama. Senate Democrats are on weak constitutional ground in trying to deny a seat to a properly selected individual. Their claim to the power to exclude a lawfully chosen senator could create a dangerous precedent.
Chemerinsky’s bottom line:
The problem here is that Burris unquestionably was lawfully selected. According to the 17th Amendment, “When vacancies happen in the representation of any state in the Senate, the executive authority of such state shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies.” Illinois law gives this power to the state governor, and that is Blagojevich until he is impeached and found guilty.
Allowing the Senate to exclude Burris on any except the narrowest of grounds would create a dangerous precedent. It could open the door to the Senate or the House overturning the will of the people and excluding representatives under one or another pretext. If Burris -- whose appointment meets the legal test, no matter what you think of Blagojevich -- is not seated, other properly elected (or appointed) representatives also are at risk.
In plain English, Burris is too legit to quit.