06 January 2009
Burris: "My Papers Are Not in Order"
Senator-designate Burris was turned away from the Capitol today and left out in the rain. The official reason, Burris was told, is that his papers are not in order because the Illinois Secretary of State has not certified Burris's appointment by Gov. Blagojevich. Burris contends that the secretary has no veto power over his appointment, but the law appears to require that official's signature. It's obvious, of course, that the secretary withholds certification at the instigation of Democratic leaders who remain determined that Blagojevich, a fellow Democrat, shall not use his power to fill the Senate seat. But it's worth asking whether the secretary is entitled to this discretion. Wouldn't Burris or Blagojevich have recourse to something like a writ of mandamus, forcing the secretary into court to show cause why he shouldn't be compelled to certify Burris's appointment? Unless there's a compromise, that could be the next round in this strange power struggle. It would be interesting to see the secretary argue that the governor has lost his prerogative of office without being impeached or convicted of an offense, or that Burris is somehow unfit to serve. I know I'd like to see it if it further discredits the whole idea of gubernatorial appointments to fill Senate vacancies. As yet, though I admit I haven't looked very hard, I haven't seen any evidence of a push for a constitutional amendment. Meanwhile, despite the confusion in New York, gubernatorial appointments in Delaware, to replace the Vice President-elect, and in Colorado, to replace a Senator appointed to the Obama cabinet, have gone off without a hitch, with no one in those states, as far as I know, questioning the governors' rights in either case. But the decisions in those states are no less arbitrary and no more democratic than the scandal in Illinois or the drama in New York. Most people are probably complacent enough to trust arbitrary power until it's proven to be corrupt, without considering that arbitrary power invites corruption. Perhaps they'd rather put their faith in great men (or women) than take more responsibility for self-government. If so, they have nothing to complain about in any of the states, and should leave Blagojevich in peace.