WASHINGTON (CNN) - CNN spoke with Senate historian Don Ritchie earlier this month about what could happen if Gov. Rod Blagojevich were to appoint someone to fill President-elect Barack Obama's Senate seat:
"The Constitution gives the Senate the ultimate authority to decide the qualifications of any of its members," Ritchie said.
TEXT: This is under Article 1, Section 5 which states "Each House shall be the Judge of the Elections, Returns and Qualifications of its own Members..."
WHEN? The Senate can only react after someone has presented a certificate of appointment. And then, refusal must of course come as a vote.
DETAILS: If there is a question about the appointment the Senate could: 1) vote to immediately vacate the seat, thus not accepting the appointment or 2) vote to seat the senator pending an investigation by the Rules Committee or some other body.
LAST SENATE REJECTION: In 1913, when the 17th amendment had just been passed giving states the option of having governors appoint senators. But the US Senate found that Alabama had not yet decided to give that power to its governor and thus the governor's appointee was not seated.
LAST TIME an incoming senator faced a pending investigation: Sen. Mary Landrieu and her contested race in 1996. She won by less than 6,000 votes, her seating was challenged, but the Senate voted to recognize her "without prejudice" while the Rules Committee spent ten months reviewing the election results.