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. Sad Illionis Resident

    I would like an opptuntity to vote for our new senator.....

    December 30, 2008 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  2. Rob, Staten Island, NY

    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. <<

    Okay, but there was no election here. The problem is this– what if there is a cloud over not the appointee, but the guy doing the appointing? I don't think Powell controls the outcome of this.

    December 30, 2008 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  3. Matt in CA

    News Flash! The Senate accepts Caroline Kennedy appointment, rejects Burris! What a joke that would be!

    December 30, 2008 04:49 pm at 4:49 pm |
  4. gt

    just let Senator Reid ,,use his good judgement and appoint those three open senate seats left ,,, Jessie Jackson sr.,,, Al Frankin and Ellot Spitzer,,,,ya these would sale right thru the new senate ,,,,,,

    December 30, 2008 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  5. Texas Teacher

    Absolutely and rightly so.... I don't care which party... if we find corruption, it must be rooted out! The times they are a changing... you better decide to be part of the solution.... or you are still part of the problem... and on the way out! As my old daddy used to say, "what is done in the dark will come to the light." And it is about time! I mean seriously... 🙂

    December 30, 2008 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  6. California Gold

    Rob in Stanten Island, Section 5 does grant authority to expel a member. "Each House may determine the rules of its proceedings .... and, with the concurrence of two thirds, expel a member." Only takes 2/3s vote of the Senate and Burris is SOL.

    December 30, 2008 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  7. Texas Teacher

    AWARE.... racism is your comment.... 🙂 or didn't you notice...

    December 30, 2008 05:30 pm at 5:30 pm |
  8. Willy Brown

    It will be fun to watch the party of "the people" to turn away a person of color.

    December 30, 2008 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  9. Truth

    You gotta give it to the man, he's a fighter!
    He's not going down without a fight. We gotta give him that much.

    December 30, 2008 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  10. He has moxie

    He didn't get to be Gov of Ill by nice guy virtues

    Jail him

    December 30, 2008 06:23 pm at 6:23 pm |
  11. malclave

    Elections, Returns, and Qualifications.

    Since this seat is the result of an appointment, Elections and Returns are not relevant. That leaves Qualifications. What, in Sen. Reid's view, would disqualify the appointment? Presumably, they would also disqualify him were he elected, rather than appointed, right?

    I'm not familiar with the Illinois Constitution or Illinois state law. But, it seems to me that if whichever of the two covers replacement U.S. Senate seats says that the governer makes the appointment... then the governor makes the appointment.

    If the Illinois legislators and/or citizens don't want Blagojevich making the appointment... either remove him as governor, or change the law. I don't really see a good reason for the U.S. Senate to refuse to seat him under I.5.

    December 30, 2008 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |

    @Richard the Illnois legislature stated the state of Illnois could not afford the 13 million it would cost for a special election.

    ACORN??? Do try to stay relevant.

    December 30, 2008 06:32 pm at 6:32 pm |
  13. Yvonne

    The Burris appointment should be rejected because it is the fruit of a poisonous tree. I make is no judgement as to AG Burris' fitness or integrity. I do judge those qualities in Gov. Blagojevich.

    This is a cynical ploy meant to exploit racial divisions. I applaud the statement by the President Elect. His criticism of the appointment makes the Blagojevich/Rush race manueveur ineffective.

    December 30, 2008 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
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