January 25th, 2009
05:05 PM ET
3 months ago

Senator: End Blagojevich-type appointments

Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold says he plans to introduce an amendment banning governors from appointing senators.
Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold says he plans to introduce an amendment banning governors from appointing senators.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - First it was the uproar over the appointment by Illinois Gov. Roy Blagojevich of former state attorney general Roland Burris to fill President Barack Obama's remaining term in the Senate.

Then, New York Gov. David Paterson appointed Democratic Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand to the Senate seat now vacated by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton - creating a political circus over why Caroline Kennedy was given the cold shoulder.

Now, Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wisconsin, says, enough is enough.

On Sunday, Feingold, said he plans to introduce an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to end appointments to the Senate by governors. Feingold, who is the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, will advocate a special election instead.

“The controversies surrounding some of the recent gubernatorial appointments to vacant Senate seats make it painfully clear that such appointments are an anachronism that must end," he said in a press release.

He added: "In 1913, the Seventeenth Amendment to the Constitution gave the citizens of this country the power to finally elect their senators. They should have the same power in the case of unexpected mid-term vacancies, so that the Senate is as responsive as possible to the will of the people."

Feingold plans to introduce the amendment this week.

soundoff (365 Responses)
  1. Nathan

    "Allen has a great point. I'd go a little further and put the election of the President back into the hands of the Electoral College, so that we would elect people we know and trust to decide among all eligible people and who are not committed to one or another candidate. That would really be a blow to special interest influence as well as to the two-year circus leading up to elections."

    Toby,

    FYI, the election is STILL, and always has been, in the hands of the electoral college. When you check the box for Obama or McCain, you are not casting a vote for them. You are casting a vote for an elector who was chosen by either Obama or McCain to cast a vote in the electoral college. These electors are actually free to vote whom they please, and there have been "disloyal" electors in various recent elections.

    N.

    January 25, 2009 08:47 pm at 8:47 pm |
  2. California Gold

    I don't mind that a state governor appoints a replacement to complete a term, but I do think there should be a rule that the person should have never made a campaign contribution to the governor. That would have taken care of Roland Burris, who donated $20,000 to Blagojevich (and how is this not another of Blagojevich's pay-for-play deals?)

    January 25, 2009 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  3. hasan

    It's about time, this is one place US constitution has given someone unchecked power.

    January 25, 2009 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  4. chuck

    NEVER TRUST A SERBIAN.

    January 25, 2009 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  5. Michael

    I love it when people who can't even spell "illiterate" can spend their time pontificating about the American political system. Talk about the best reason to abolish universal sufferage. Get off the internet and pick up a book...A grade school spelling book!!

    I also agree with Senator Feingold. Thank you, Senator, for trying to enact meaningful reform.

    January 25, 2009 08:50 pm at 8:50 pm |
  6. German,Irish American

    Shoot, not a word out of Feingold while Obama was completely ignoring and trashing the campaign financing law he and McCain wrote and co-sponsered. He was so quiet during Obama's illegal money raising campaign, and his refusal to release information on 300 million dollars in campaign donations, that I thought he had retired from the Senate.

    January 25, 2009 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  7. Bill

    While I agree with Feingold's ana;ysis and conclusions, this is clearly a state's right issue. What is needed is for the states to individually adopt this idea. The federal government has no place in determining how individual states determine their federal representation.

    January 25, 2009 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  8. jim hefti

    Great Idea, so we can throw out the idea of the founding fathers that allows the states to control and govern their own matters. And maybe the Wisconsin people might appreciate the Federal government mandating that the new senators and representatives be a person to the Congresses choosing?

    I applaud both governors with the diligence and choices,( yes even in Illinois, he made a decent respectful decision, )they selected the person who would best represent their respective state , and not the choice of some guy from another state.
    Is the federal government going to pay for the new elections?
    It ain't broke . leave it alone.

    January 25, 2009 08:55 pm at 8:55 pm |
  9. Chris

    No, no, no, no, no!

    The states should decide their fate, not the federal government or other state senators.

    Just because their special interest buddies didn't get the seat doesn't mean they can alter our founding fathers rules.

    Oust Feingold. Get rid of anyone that creates strife out of good intentions.

    January 25, 2009 08:56 pm at 8:56 pm |
  10. E.C.Coleman

    This should be accomplished immediately. This appointment is NOT the 'right of a Governor.' It is the Right of the State Legislative Body of each state, or another Election to fill the seat. In this age of the Internet and Electronic Voting, this additional election would NOT be expensive. There is entirely too much 'cronyism.'

    January 25, 2009 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
  11. Rex

    one person should never have the sole responsibility of appointing anyone to a Government position. Favoritism at its finest.

    January 25, 2009 09:05 pm at 9:05 pm |
  12. earle,florida

    Sen. Feingold is the master of "fluff" when it comes to the old nuance of metamorphosis inebriated by the political arena that has already chosen it's future long past,..."Pathetic Badger"

    January 25, 2009 09:06 pm at 9:06 pm |
  13. Erik

    This would be a an improvement. But even better, repeal the 19th amendment, and let Senators be elected by state legislatures again instead of by the general population.

    January 25, 2009 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  14. ed fl

    all senators should have to run each election that the president has to run. PERIOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    January 25, 2009 09:10 pm at 9:10 pm |
  15. lt

    finally a thinking response...thank you Jon

    January 25, 2009 09:11 pm at 9:11 pm |
  16. Harry Katz

    I appreciate Feingold's suggestion. He's right... the current practice IS an anachronism. Back when it was first established that Governors fill Senate vacancies the politics were completely different and there is way too much opportunity for corruption to enter into the equation. But instead of incurring the costs of going to the voting booths, let's let the people decide by listening to their elected representatives, and let's let the state legislatures decide in a majority vote.

    January 25, 2009 09:15 pm at 9:15 pm |
  17. ed fl

    BOEHNER is just a Tom Delay clone. He soon will meet the same justice, Having to leave in disgrace do to his lousy performance of trying to give more tax breaks to the wealthy and lobbyists.

    January 25, 2009 09:15 pm at 9:15 pm |
  18. Will

    This article says "Illinois Gov. Roy Blagojevich ." His name is ROD Blagojevich.

    January 25, 2009 09:17 pm at 9:17 pm |
  19. Carl

    I like Russ Feingold a lot. In my view the nation would be better off with more like him and less of the Boehner (spelling?) type. Boehner serves no-one but the Republican party and over the past 8 years we all can see what that got us.

    January 25, 2009 09:17 pm at 9:17 pm |
  20. william

    Sorry Senator, you got it wrong. We need to repeal the 17th Amendment and let state legislatures choose senators again. Senators were originally conceived as a balance for the states (rights) versus the house. Now all the Senate is is a "Super House", highly ripe, lobbiest loved, picking for corruption with 6 year terms. If we are ever to clean up Washington we need to repeal the 17th Amendment. Please search the subject and educate yourself.

    January 25, 2009 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  21. Emily Quinlan

    Its a nice idea, the problem being that in order to hold a special election it would be necessary to find candidates, have them go through the certification process to get on the ballet, organize an election and then hold the election. While in the situation surrounding either Obama or Clinton's resignations that would be feasible since everyone knew well in advance that they would be resigning. In the situation where a Senator gets sick or there is some other emergency that Senate seat would be empty for quite a while; and their State would be lacking in representation.

    January 25, 2009 09:21 pm at 9:21 pm |
  22. Richard Lorenc

    The simple solution is to repeal the Seventeenth Amendment. Currently, state government interests are not represented at all in Washington, D.C. The Founders designed the Constitution in a way that would allow for U.S. House members to be elected by the people, and for U.S. Senators to be appointed by state legislatures.

    January 25, 2009 09:21 pm at 9:21 pm |
  23. CC

    This is ridiculous. The governor should ABSOLUTELY have the right to appoint a vacant Senate seat; are we just supposed supposed to spend a bunch of taxpayer time and money when it isn't necessary? Check the economic situation before you answer that one...

    January 25, 2009 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  24. Randy

    HERE WE GO AGAIN!!! I get so tired of politicians wanting to change the rules because they don't like the outcome. This is nonsense. Let states decide how they will send their representatives to Congress. We have a problem in this country with ANYONE who has "power". WHY IS THAT! Governors have been elected by the people and in the Unusual Circumstances that lead to a vacancy within Congress, there is ABSOLUTELY nothing wrong with the Governor selecting the replacement to fulfill the term of office. I like Feingold but think this is COMPLETLEY silly. We have other much more pressing issues to deal with in this country and this does not need to be absorbing our public dialogue. GET A GRIP....

    January 25, 2009 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  25. Deb

    ANYONE appointed to WORK for us the American Public, to make laws and decisions based on what is best for us and what WE want should be voted in not appointed by anyone. This 'let me give my buddy the seat' BS should have been done with a long time ago. And we wonder why politicians go corrupt.

    January 25, 2009 09:27 pm at 9:27 pm |
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