January 25th, 2009
05:05 PM ET
6 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. Seth

    DUUUUUUUUUMB!

    Keep the power divided, this crap is the WRONG direction to go...

    January 25, 2009 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  2. Shannon

    I think this is probably a good idea, but talking to those that I know in NY a lot of them really liked Kirsten Gillibrand. It may not have made a difference with her. That said, I do think that it should be left up to the citizens of a state to make a decision like that and not the governor.

    January 25, 2009 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  3. Greg

    A seat in the US Senate is far to important to leave vacant for a year + while a special election is conducted. The people of a state elect the Govener; if they don't like the Governer's decisions, vote him/her out at the next election, along with the apointee! Most will probably agree that there are more important things to address right now then trying to change the Constitution.

    January 25, 2009 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  4. Shannon

    Mark,

    This wouldn't be giving the power to the Federal Government ... it would be giving the power back to the people of that particular state ... where it belongs.

    January 25, 2009 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  5. mominator

    The cost of a special election would be too great and take too long for a state to be without proper representation.

    January 25, 2009 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  6. jake

    If you want to run for President you should have to resign your Senate or Congressman seat when you file your intentions. I'm tired of paying Senators and Congressman for no workeee. This will solve alot of political problems. Are you running for the good of the country? What did obama do for this country in 2 years as a Senator? Very little.

    January 25, 2009 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  7. Michael

    It's about time these knuckleheads started doing the right thing. Now if only the BCS would implement a playoff system...

    January 25, 2009 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  8. Gahan

    Hello?
    Economic catastrophe looming, 2 wars, our Education system in collapse,
    The Environment getting shafted by everyone.
    So now Sen. Russel Feingold wants to
    CHANGE THE US CONSTITUTION!!! – Why?
    Because the mighty Senator does not like the politics of the two who were appointed.
    Yo, Russ, get over yourself.

    January 25, 2009 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  9. Matt

    Why bother changing the Constitution when nobody follows it anyway?

    January 25, 2009 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  10. Ken

    Darn straight! Elections should be held to fill vacated seats.

    January 25, 2009 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  11. Jim in Asheville

    Special elections are just fine. Let the people decide when it comes to an elective office. Using the cost of such an election to argue against it is a smokescreen designed to put power into the hands of smaller (and less accountable) groups.

    January 25, 2009 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  12. Lily1412

    This situation of governors appointing senators to empty senate seats isn't serious enough to warrant an amendment to our Constitution. There are other ways to handle the situation gracefully.
    I believe Feingold doesn't take the Constitution seriously enough and hope the states would never ratify his attempt to turn the Constitution toward his own political ends.

    January 25, 2009 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  13. wrong on the constitution

    I completely disagree with Allen there. Putting elections back into the hands of legislature would make it easier for special interest groups to target legislatures to push agendas. The current system has its obvious flaws, but going back to a time before the 17th amendment is not the answer.

    January 25, 2009 06:10 pm at 6:10 pm |
  14. lbjack

    This is ridiculous.The Blago flap is an anomaly. If they think Blago's a stinker, all the Senate has to do is scrutinize Burris extra hard. As for Paterson's handling of Caroline Kennedy, the only circus is a media circus. Why Caroline Kennedy withdrew is for the gossip columns, and Patterson's ineptness hardly qualifies as a consitutional crisis. Drama queens like Feingold should stop grandstanding.

    January 25, 2009 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  15. Bill / California

    In theory, I'm for it. However, until we can find a way to make elections more affordable, I'm not in favor of having anymore than we need to. When they were talking about having a special state election in IL for the senate seat, they were saying it could cost upwards of $ 50m to run the election. That's INSANE.

    January 25, 2009 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  16. Brady

    I don't really see how the New York Senate appointment is an argument for this amendment. So Caroline Kennedy was "given the cold shoulder". Big deal. The Blagojevich scandal is a far better argument for this amendment, because it shows when things go wrong with this system of appointing Senators. The New York situation is an example of when things go right in the system of appointing Senators.

    January 25, 2009 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  17. Lou from CT

    The question is – who would pay for these elections? States are strapped enough as it is, now we have to burden them with a special election?

    January 25, 2009 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  18. woody

    the idea is either to strike a balance between cost what feingold calls "blagojevich-style appointments"...OR choose one over the other.

    on the one hand we have inefficiencies, drama and possible corruption...and on the other hand we have increased expenditures.

    SO heres is my idea:

    EACH U.S. senator must have a "back-up" put in place during the normal elections who would be ready to step in whenever the need arises. i think this would eliminate both the cost of an uneccesary election and the drama of a blayojevich-style appointment.

    January 25, 2009 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  19. Matt, Manchester, CT

    Thanks Senator Feingold, but I think the individual states are more than capable to decide this form themselves without the intrusion of the Federal Government.

    January 25, 2009 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  20. hello

    i certainly agree with you.

    January 25, 2009 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  21. Shon P. Connors

    I think this is a great idea. I think no governor has the right to pick and choose who should be in the Senate. That should be up to the people of the United States.

    January 25, 2009 06:14 pm at 6:14 pm |
  22. lucy

    Currently there are 27 amendments to the Constitution. So it is far from being perfect. On the other hand, all amendments need to make things better not worse.

    January 25, 2009 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  23. Anna

    And what about a law that prevents senators from running for office unless they resign the senate? We had 3 senators in this last election cycle that got a salary for at least a year or two and were never in the senate

    January 25, 2009 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  24. Ernie in LA

    This sounds great. Obama should have come up with this idea if he wants change.

    January 25, 2009 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
  25. I Will Make Them Famous ...

    No . No. and NO!

    This is a typical over reaction to a flurry of Senate appointments ... Barack's seat, Hillary's seat, Biden's seat, Salazar's seat.

    Senators rarely make it to be contenders in Presidential politics ... this year's results are highly UNUSUAL.

    Moreover, even if they were not unusual, the Constitutioin works just fine on this point ... LEAVE IT ALONE!

    The root cause corrective action is to elect governors of integrity. Two that lacked it which come to mind are the Alaska governor that nominated his daughter and Blagoevich attempting to sell his seat (which ultimately did not occur).

    Finegold just wants his name in the news ... he wants some attention.

    January 25, 2009 06:16 pm at 6:16 pm |
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