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Roland W. Burris? The Plot Thickens

Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich sure loves to create scandal. In his most recent move, the Ill. governor appointed Roland W. Burris to replace President-Elect Obama in the US Senate.

In a New York Times article, Don Rose, a former Democratic political consultant in Chicago, described Mr. Burris as “not a terribly exciting figure,” and that “there’s never been a breath of scandal about [Mr. Burris].”

However, another Times article suggests that the political waters surrounding Burris’ relationship with Blagojevich may be a bit murkier. Following the 2002 primary for governor, Mr. Burris encouraged Mr. Obama to endorse Mr. Blagojevich. At one point, Mr. Burris served as the vice chairman of the governor’s transition team.

Moreover, Mr. Burris and his consulting firm have made several contributions to Mr. Blagojevich’s campaign. State records show that the consulting firm has given more than $9,000 in cash and in-kind contributions, and Mr. Burris has personally handed out at least $4,500. In June of this year, Mr. Burris contributed $1,000 to Mr. Blagojevich’s campaign. The article also notes, though, that Mr. Burris is not someone believed to be mentioned in the conversations prosecutors recorded of Mr. Blagojevich’s apparent negotiations over the seat.

Can the Senate now exclude Mr. Burris from taking the seat? Not so fast. A Wall Street Journal law blog noted the effect that the US Supreme Court’s decision in Powell v. McCormick could have on this issue.

In Powell, Adam Clayton Powell, a Harlem representative facing some legal issues, won reelection in 1966. The House of Representatives voted to exclude him. The US Supreme Court’s decision was that the proceedings against Powell were intended to exclude him rather than expel him, and that the House did not constitutionally possess the power to exclude a duly elected member.

How does this affect Mr. Burris? Well, it seems that the Senate would have to wait for him to be seated as a new member of Congress, and only then could they force a vote to have him expelled. Removing Mr. Burris from the Senate would require a two-thirds vote, however. Will two-thirds of the Senate vote in favor of his removal? Only time will tell.

Regardless of how this political game plays out, Mr. Rose thinks Mr. Burris will “run again,” that this is what “[Mr. Burris has] always wanted.”

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December 31, 2008 - Posted by | Law, Politics | , , , , ,

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