December 30th, 2008
01:33 PM ET
12 years ago

Senate can refuse to seat Blagojevich appointee

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="CNN has learned that Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich has settled on someone to replace Barack Obama in the U.S. Senate."]
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.

Filed under: Rod Blagojevich
soundoff (38 Responses)
  1. Ivan Blago

    I cannot be defeated.

    December 30, 2008 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  2. Sherrol in Canada

    Who knows what the Senate is going to do. I believe they should reject Blago's appointee however as this is surely an act of defiance on his part.

    He is an egotistical nincompoop!!!

    December 30, 2008 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  3. aware

    I do not think the Senate will reject Gov. Rod Blagojevich's choice of former Illinois Atty. Gen. Roland Burris to replace President-elect Barack Obama in the U.S. Senate.

    Racism you know! 🙂

    December 30, 2008 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  4. Terry

    There is nothing to worry about here. The Illinois legislature has the situation well in hand. I'm sure that in seven or eight months they will have decided to impeach him, and after a month-long trial they will vote to convict. Remember, the same voters who elected their governor are the ones who elected that legislature.

    December 30, 2008 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  5. witch

    I think that the senate should refuse to seat Mr Burris . I think he is a good man but I don't think that the gov is fit to appoint anyone. I am from Il and I voted for the gov. That was such a big mistake. I hope he gets everything that he deserves.

    December 30, 2008 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  6. Gallimimus

    It seems that it would be a good idea to at least stall on accepting the appointment, until after the legal process has finished. If it turns out he is quilty, well, his selection would be inappropriate. If not quilty on charges, well, he's just doing his job. Albeit, in a dastardly, less than honorable fashion.

    December 30, 2008 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  7. John in Ohio

    Burris would do himself and Illinois a big favor by refusing to accept this, and by saying that he won't accept being picked by a corrupt governor.

    I can't believe how Blago is so freaking delusional and insane. He's facing pressure on all sides to resign. Feds are after him, and there's
    impeachment proceedings underway in the Illinois House, where they're saying they have reasons for impeachment in addition to what the feds have found. The US Senate has said that if he names a successor to Obama's empty seat, they won't recognize or accept the replacement. And in light of all that, today Blagojevich is expected to make a statement naming *former* Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris to the US Senate seat for Illinois vacated by Barack Obama.

    Is he completely insane? What world does he live in where he thinks this will fly? Not ours, surely!

    December 30, 2008 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  8. JT

    This subject matter has to be taken to the supreme court.

    December 30, 2008 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  9. Ralph Ward

    Not to worry. This is pretty much the same bunch of Democrats who swore over and over again that they wouldn't let the Bush administration get away with anything, then promptly folded whenever forty votes to the contrary showed up. The Blue Dogs will seat Burris even if nobody else does.

    December 30, 2008 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  10. Richard Rohde

    Not a chance they would be willing to leave it up to the voters. Say we have a fair election without ACORN or the unions, I wonder what would happen.

    December 30, 2008 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  11. Get over it

    I'll have to say one thing, the man's got balls!!!

    December 30, 2008 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  12. Carl A Carlozzi

    Whoever is appointed by the current governor should not be seated. The appointee no matter how quaified

    Don't seat the appointee. It gives too much value to an already tainted Governor–no matter how how strong or weak the appointee may be. Such a person must be viewed as someone who is simply a foil for the Govenor's legal battle in fighting what seems certain to be an impeachment effort by the Illinois legislature.

    December 30, 2008 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  13. California Gold

    Here is a picture of Blagojevich at a podium with the great seal of the State of Illinois. Why does he still look like he is conducting an auction? "$100, 200, do I have 300?"

    December 30, 2008 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  14. Proud American

    I sure hope so, it's time to show the world that corruption will not be accepted. Blagojevich shouldn't be allowed to appoint Dog Catcher anywhere in the world. What is wrong with ILL, why haven't impeachment proceeding started??

    December 30, 2008 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  15. Anonymous

    Blagojevich must resign

    December 30, 2008 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  16. Matt

    Now here is a slippery slope for the Senate to be on. Burris for all indications seems a qualified choice for the senate. He has experience and would be a good fit for the job with or without a scandel. Burris himself has done nothing wrong so how can he be disqualified for what someone else may or may not have done. We are still innocent until proven guilty right? And no one is saying Burris is guilty of anything right? So how can he be denied for the allegations of another person?

    Note that most of these Senators who will say he is not qualified are the same ones that say Caroline Kennedy is qualified yet has no experience. Go figure. Makes you wonder if anyone really understands what the word experience means anymore.

    December 30, 2008 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  17. BAH

    Mr. Ritchie is mistaken. Under Powell v. McCormack, 395 U.S. 486 (1969), the houses of Congress have no authority to refuse to seat an appointee or candidate duly elected to the House or Senate under Art. 1, Section 5, unless that appointee or candidate, in the judgment of the house in question, fails to meet one of the constitutional qualifications for the office. In the case of the office of Senator, the relevant qualifications are 30 years of age, nine years a citizen of the United States, and a resident of the state they represent. There can be no serious question that Mr. Burris meets those requirements, and therefore the Senate has no authority to "exclude" or refuse to seat him. If the Senate feels the circumstances of Mr. Burris' appointment are such as would undermine the dignity or integrity of the Senate if he were to remain in office, it does have the authority to expel him pursuant to Art. 1 Section 5 by a two-thirds vote.

    December 30, 2008 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  18. Illinois Citizen

    Here in Illinois, we believe in the presumption of innocence. Beyond this, there is simply not even an accusation that Mr. Burris was involved in any corrupt behavior. He has an excellent reputation in the state, which I think all will agree is a remarkable accomplishment. As a citizen of this state, I would consider it an act of extreme hubris for the US Senate, with its own scandal plagued history, to refuse to seat him.

    December 30, 2008 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  19. rich

    After watching that press confrence, my initial reaction is that the appointee is not a bad choice at all regardless of the apointers legal troubles. I think the DEMs should reconsider provided there was no hanky panky to get the seat which I doubt this appointee would have involved himself with. He appears clean.

    Bottome line, IL needs two senators ready on Day 1 in the next congress as does Barack. The seat will be up for reelection in a few years after which the people of IL could decide who should continue to serve as their senator. IMO, this is a done deal; there are more important fish to fry.

    December 30, 2008 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  20. Praetorian, Fort Myers

    Harry Reid would indeed prove how much of an idiot he is by denying this appointment.

    Blago–is still Governor. And he has the constitutional and legal authority to appoint the replacement. So Harry...take a powder and allow this duly elected official to do his job!!!

    Whatever happened to due process in this country???

    December 30, 2008 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  21. Jean2


    December 30, 2008 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  22. Jean2


    December 30, 2008 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  23. Anonymous

    Go Blago Go!!!!


    December 30, 2008 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  24. Sad Illionis Resident

    As a Resident of Illinios I feel as If my Governor has let me down and has lost my respect. I did not vote for this man, I did not vote for Obama – they were both elected because of Chicago and East St. Louis – the rest of the state voted differently, but what Chicago and East St. Louis says goes in this state.

    It would be nice to get a Governor that actually works and lives in the State Capital. Blago stayed and worked in Chicago – not Springfield.....

    It would be nice to get a Governor that respects the laws and rules set out before him.

    I resent the congressman speaking today – basically making the whole thing a Race Issue – – – This is not a Race Issue and I'm tired of people making it out to be a Race Issue.

    The Appointment to the Senate should be on Merrit and accomplishment – no matter if they are White, Black or Hispanic, no matter if they are Rep, Dem or Independent...

    December 30, 2008 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  25. Greg Hodges

    This is not fair to Mr. Burris, the state of Illinois, or the U.S. Senate. I do not see how anyone appointed by Blagojevich could be accepted by the American people or government. The problem really lies at the fact that it could take months to be rid of Blago; and in the meantime there is a vacant Senate seat that needs to be filled. I would suggest that the Senate could hold an impartial enquiry into Mr. Burris being worthy of such an appointment, with the G.O.P. having a majority of 1 vote in a committee for such an enquiry. But somehow that doesn`t sound realistic either. So way to go Blago; you have created one God awful mess.

    December 30, 2008 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
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