Earlier today, we reported on the Illinois Supreme Court's ruling that Secretary of State Jesse White's signature was not required to certify and validate Roland Burris' appointment to the U.S. Senate. Following that news, White and Attorney General Lisa Madigan released a ...
Earlier today, we reported on the Illinois Supreme Court's ruling that Secretary of State Jesse White's signature was not required to certify and validate Roland Burris' appointment to the U.S. Senate. Following that news, White and Attorney General Lisa Madigan released a statement saying: "It remains within the power of the U.S. Senate to seat Mr. Burris. They should do so immediately." And White later told the AP that, following the high court's decision, he has no intention of signing the certificate of appointment.
But at a press conference this afternoon, Sen. Dick Durbin asserted that the Democratic leadership "must insist" on the Senate rule requiring White's signature and won't accept Burris' appointment without it. Reuters further quoted Durbin saying, "At this point we've clearly reached an impasse." And check out the lede to that article:
No one can occupy the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama until the governor of Illinois is removed and a new appointment can be certified, Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois said Friday.
I'd like to see the exact transcript of Durbin's remarks to confirm that he put it that way. But this sure seems to be the direction the Senate Democrats are trying to head. The question is whether Burris will take his case to the U.S. Supreme Court in the meantime.
UPDATE (6:17 pm): Below is the full transcript of Durbin's statement (WBBM has the audio). He does indeed say that the "obvious answer" to this situation is to let the impeachment process conclude and then allow Pat Quinn to make a "clean, legal, respectable" appointment.
UPDATE II (6:58 pm): You have to wonder if Burris' testimony before the House impeachment committee yesterday is what led to this. After all, earlier this week Durbin and Reid appeared to be warming to the idea of seating him.
DURBIN: It isn't just a question of whether Illinois law has been met. It isn't a question of whether the Illinois constitution has been served. But whether or not the actions taken are sufficient for a person to be appointed to fill the vacancy under the rules of the United States Senate where I serve.
In 1884, the United State Senate drew up rules relative to the filling of vacancies by election or appointment. And the rules of the United States Senate are clear: whether by election or appointment, a certificate has to be given to the Senate which declares the date of the appointment or election, the name of the person, the date of the certification, and the name and the signature of both the governor of the state and the secretary of state, as well as the name of the state, obviously, affected by this appointment.
These basic six requirements have been in the Senate now for 125 years. There has never in the history of the Senate been a waiver of the requirement that the secretary of state's signature be part of the appointment process. Never. No one's suggested it.
At this point, we've clearly reached an impasse. The Illinois Supreme Court has said, "Our state has done all it needs to do under its statutes and constitution to fill the vacancy. We're not going to do anything, nor require any officer of the state to do more." The Senate rules say, "More needs to be done."
I think there is one obvious answer to this. In the matter of a few weeks, the Illinois State Senate will have reached its conclusion about the impeachment of our governor. It's unfortunate that during that time there may remain a vacancy in the Senate for our state of Illinois. But I think it's best to suspend activities in the filling of that vacancy until this impeachment trial in the Illinois State Senate is concluded. If it results in the impeachment of Gov. Blagojevich, it will mean the succession of office of Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn. He will then have the authority to make this appointment in a clean, legal, respectable way and make his recommendation and his appointment known to the United State Senate under the ordinary course of procedure. I think that's the best way to turn the page in Illinois political history, to put behind us the actions of this governor -- who now has the dubious distinction of being the first to have articles of impeachment returned against him by the Illinois House of Representatives -- and to start a new chapter in the Illinois history books.I think this is the best way to proceed. I think it unlikely that any other course we follow will do this more quickly.
If this matter is referred to some federal court, or some other state court, it is likely to go on for some period of time, maybe weeks. If it is referred to the United States Senate to debate, I can tell you the reality. The reality is we have a few other things on our agenda. We have a failing American economy. We have a president who is pleading with us to deal swiftly and quickly to deal with this economy so we can spare some of the suffering that Illinois families and businesses -- as well as families across the country -- are facing. It's not likely that we're going to take the time to debate the wisdom of a rule that's 125 years old in the United States Senate when, in fact, the salvation and answer to this problem may be only weeks away right here in the state of Illinois.