January 25th, 2009
05:05 PM ET
9 years ago

Senator: End Blagojevich-type appointments

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/06/25/art.feingold.gi.jpg caption="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. Joel W

    Let the people of each state decide how a vacant US Senate seat should be filled. The 17th Amendment as written essentially already gives the states a choice - by special election or, if empowered by the legislature, by executive appointment. Nothing's broken with the Constitution on this issue - no need to fix it.

    January 25, 2009 09:28 pm at 9:28 pm |
  2. billy-bayou

    Is there anyone out there that has any idea of what is happening?
    Russ Feingold wants everything controlled from Washington, "CHANGE" you can believe in. And watch his friend John McCain once again cross the isle to join him. But then, this is what you wanted when you elected the "Great Himself"(obama).

    January 25, 2009 09:32 pm at 9:32 pm |
  3. Aaron

    Here we go again. Something doesn't go just right, and some politician wants to grab a headline calling for a change in the Constitution.
    Leave the Constitution alone unless it's for something truly important. Changing it because one governor is corrupt, and another snubbed a Kennedy is just ludicris!
    Again and again we see the wisdom of the founders in making it almost impossible to change the Constitution. If it were easy, we'd have every loony issue of the day clogging up the law of the land, until it wouldn't be worth the paper it is written on.

    January 25, 2009 09:32 pm at 9:32 pm |
  4. Ravi in MO

    Dead wrong, Mr Feingold. I often agree with you on most things but this is foolish.

    First, this is a State issue, so individual states ought to work this out on their own. Second, I oppose the horrible system of using popular vote to elect ANYONE. It is tyranny of the majority, and this is why the Founders required senators to be elected by the state legislature (before the 17th repealed it).

    The Federal Government is too powerful as it is! To the 50 States: Do not ratify this amendment. We must defend State sovereignty.

    January 25, 2009 09:33 pm at 9:33 pm |
  5. David

    Allen has it exactly right. The Senators that each state sends to Washington are there to represent the interests of their STATE not the PEOPLE. Therefore, repeal the 17th amendment and return the authority to appoint Senators to state legislatures as was the original design. Sadly, that is less likely to happen than things going the other way and opening up federal judicial appointments to popular vote. God helps us if THAT travesty is ever written into the Constitution...

    January 25, 2009 09:35 pm at 9:35 pm |
  6. Barry

    Leave the Constitution alone! Obama has been in Office not even a week and the Liberals are already wanting to change the constitution. Good thing they did not get the 60 seats in the senate like they were wanting.

    January 25, 2009 09:41 pm at 9:41 pm |
  7. Barry

    The only reason Feingold is crying is because the Democrat to replace Hillary in the Senate is a Pro-Gun Democrat and not Kennedy Royalty.

    January 25, 2009 09:44 pm at 9:44 pm |
  8. Nathan

    Too much politics and not enough civil service by elected officials is making the political parties an "anachronism that must end". No change needed in the constitution, but it is time to change politics. Start acting like servants of the people. The time for change came to the presidency – old politics is over, we need to see some change in congress, state, city governments next.

    January 25, 2009 09:57 pm at 9:57 pm |
  9. Last Honest man

    Feingold is an idiot. Period!!!!!!
    We have better things to do than this BS. Demmies Its your ship. The rocks are ahead and you will have no one to blame.

    January 25, 2009 10:00 pm at 10:00 pm |
  10. Penn Voter

    Fiengold needs to back down and stop attempting to limit the sovereignty of the state to make their own selections in a manner that they determine.

    January 25, 2009 10:01 pm at 10:01 pm |
  11. earle,florida

    Re: Mikeal Is a speeling book the same as a Bible dictionery,...?

    January 25, 2009 10:07 pm at 10:07 pm |
  12. Brian PA

    To reiterate: the constitution was written with specific ways to amend it in order to accommodate changing times. This capacity shows incredible foresight on the part of the founders and gives the lie to strict constructionism.

    Anyone who says "let's go back to the original language of the constitution", contending that's the way it is supposed to be, does NOT understand the constitution.


    January 25, 2009 10:08 pm at 10:08 pm |
  13. McHugh

    As an Upstate New Yorker, I am very pleased with the selection made by Governer Patterson in New York. Sounds like the problem for many is he picked a middle-of-the-road Democrat in Gillibrand that is qualified, is an Upstate New Yorker and does not share the liberal values of Mr. Feingold.

    Power to the states and, in this case, I think our Governer did it right. No support for amending the Constitution here.

    January 25, 2009 10:09 pm at 10:09 pm |
  14. Jim from NYC

    President Obama was elected in part because of his uncanny ability to make the difficult seem surmountable, the unpalatable to seem acceptable if we can stop the partisan sniping. What has been the problem with the two most recent senatorial picks? The problem is not the choices made, but the 'hurt feelings' of the press and those not chosen. I am no student of law, but even I knew there was nothing anyone could do about the Illinois Governor's choice (seems like a good guy, elected Attorney General, etc.). How anyone can fault Governor Paterson is beyond me – he chose a seemingly capable two term congresswoman from New York. What's the problem? She's not downstate-enough? I am from NYC and I say its refreshing to get an 'upstater' into our state-wide or federal delegation. Of course she is pro-gun rights – she's from 'the country'. Let's not partisan snipe and declare our candidacy to split this national party, Ms. McCarthy. Let's give Senator Gillebrand her fair chance and see if we can 'just all get along' for a little while, at least.

    January 25, 2009 10:12 pm at 10:12 pm |
  15. Steve in Las Vegas,NV

    But who pays for the special election? The residents?, the feds? And who has the money to hold a special election?

    And besides this is a state issue, not a Federal Government issue.

    January 25, 2009 11:07 pm at 11:07 pm |
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