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. JLT, TX

    Toby and Allen – Are you guys kidding? Don't you want to live in a democracy? We should do away with the electoral college completely and let the people elect the president. As far as appointing a Senator, it is too expensive to hold an election mid tern. Do you really want to trust the state legislatures to appoint your senators? They would try to appoint their friends, people they owe favors, people they want something from, whoever. Maybe the governor, the other Senator and all the Representives could select a new Senator? I don't know but there has to be a better way.

    January 25, 2009 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  2. Miguel

    Great idea, Sen. Russ. Why doesn't every senator think of a way to get headlines with a waste of time idea that has zero chance of ever being ratified? Especially an idea such as this one, which is something totally unneeded.

    Hey, it's not like Sen. Russ has other things to do. The country is running smoothly; everyone is fat and happy; employment is high; debt is low; energy prices are great-it's about time someone came up with something for a senator to do with all his down time in these safe and secure times we live in.

    January 25, 2009 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  3. Christopher

    That is a way to solve a problem that you don't agree with, change the Constitution. By the way, I didn't hear much about changing the Constitution when a convicted felon can still be a senator or a congressman can get a "slap on the wrist" when he drinks and drive. Or how about when a judge can drink and drive then kill someone, and get only six months in jail.

    There is nothing wrong with the Constitution, but there is a way we do business in our democracy.

    January 25, 2009 07:36 pm at 7:36 pm |
  4. Ron

    Mark: did you even READ the article??? It says that instead of governors appointing senators, that there would be a special ELECTION.

    January 25, 2009 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
  5. Keith

    I agree with Mr. Feingold, however states will complain about the federal governments new power over there local governments and we all know how that song and dance goes.

    January 25, 2009 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  6. GA for Obama

    Allen, you're crazy

    January 25, 2009 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  7. Dan

    Democrats do not care for the constitution. They will amend it as and when they need it. All cases of senatorial appointments came from the Governors who are democrats. Why do they have problems in their governance? Most of the Governors from the states managed by democrats are asking for bail-out money because they do not want to work hard to balance the budget. They want to use tax-payers money and the money from their children and grand-children to fund themselves and enjoy life. Barack Obama has no experience in it and he is fearful to American people. He does not know what to do and he wants to take advise from stupid advisers who surround him. This is the reality. Obama Show is on now and watch out. Bad days are ahead of us.

    January 25, 2009 07:41 pm at 7:41 pm |
  8. Merman Hunster

    Give it a rest.

    January 25, 2009 07:43 pm at 7:43 pm |
  9. David

    Sue, what in the world do your comments have to do with this article?

    January 25, 2009 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  10. bill

    Senators should be chosen by the people. NOT one person.

    January 25, 2009 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  11. Big Ed


    I am glad you were able to admit you were a Republican. Recognizing the illness is half of the cure!

    January 25, 2009 07:48 pm at 7:48 pm |
  12. Dr Larry

    Heh !
    Sue posted very off-topic and said:
    "He is trying to incite violence from the ultra right wing… people who are aliterate."
    Do you perhaps mean "illiterate", Brainy Sue?
    BTW – He said "million", not "billion", but you probably don't know the difference, do you? It is quite easy to find the full interview online to confirm this.

    January 25, 2009 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  13. Lisa

    Toby – the election of the president BACK to the electoral college? When has it left? FYI – several presidents have lost the popular vote and still been put in office by the electoral college (GW Bush in 2001 for example. Well the electoral college with the help or interference of the Supreme Court). So I don't get what you are talking about?

    January 25, 2009 07:49 pm at 7:49 pm |
  14. Stephen Merrill

    I agree with Allen. Let's go back to the way it is suppose to work. People should be voting for local state law makers to go to state capitols and work for them. State Law makers should be sending the most qualified candidates to Washington to work on behalf of the States interest. So many senators now go to Washington to further their own interest of gaining fame on a national stage and they forget they were sent there to work on behalf of their state.

    January 25, 2009 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  15. brenda

    I agree that the epopel of each state should be able to ELECT the person that they want to take the seat. The govenor of a state represents the people of that state and so he/she should ket the people decide or he/she should, at the very least, send out a ballot to each and every household asking who they want him/her to appoint. easier to allow the people to decide who will represent them. Duh. I like the ammendment.

    January 25, 2009 07:50 pm at 7:50 pm |
  16. Dr Larry

    I am no fan of Feingold, but I agree on this one.
    While we are at it, let's also have term limits – say a total of 12 years maximum in Congress. It can be in the House, Senate, or both, but no longer than 12 years.
    That would get rid of the people that are only interested in building a power base to work from.

    January 25, 2009 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  17. John

    Jon, you need to work on your reading skills. Nothing here says the federal government will decide replacement senators. In fact, the impression given by the article is that STATES will hold special elections.

    January 25, 2009 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  18. Sean from New Jersey

    This is a rough issue to ask an amendment for. On one hand, what happened in Illinois was outrageous, but on the other hand, many constituents of the senators would probably disagree with the amendment. I'm curious how this will play out.

    January 25, 2009 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  19. Abs

    "Let's try and follow the Constitution not change it."
    Let's not let women vote!

    Yes, that was sarcasm.

    January 25, 2009 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  20. lawed

    Amendments, etc
    In general, the CONSTITUTION as is stands presently is completely out of place with present reality & NEEDS TO BE EXTERMINATED. AMERICA is on the decline because of the many "tricks" swirling in the form of the fine print loaded into the amendments – that it's worse than attempting to "play POKER with ace's concealed in the sleeve's!!!!). E.G. (i) What's this nonsense about the right to possess weapons – in a 'concrete jungle'??? (ii) Capital punishment – who's paying the bill to defend the idea??? (iii) ILLEGAL Immigration – the LAW as demonstrated in "THE MERCHANT of Venice" is clear – 'a pound of flesh.....' – there has to be about 40+ million illegal immigrants feeding of the efforts of legal residents – look at 'hoops' that legal immigrants have to jump through to get to the point???? (iv) Tax evasion should be a major crime – many of the lawmakers have evaded filing returns & paying up on time – look at what has happened????

    January 25, 2009 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  21. William Lucas

    While updating our constitution, let's also amend it to permit only one term in any elective office.

    That would go a long way toward establishing democracy in our country.

    January 25, 2009 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  22. Joel

    Jon–By having special elections, it would still be a "States Issue." At this point, it's not up to states how to fill their vacated senate seats (this is dictated by a CURRENT constitutional amendment), so there would be no way for citizens to take it up with their states.
    Toby–Currently, the Electoral College does elect the President. The way the Electoral College votes, and always has voted, is dependent on the popular vote in each state (NE is a little bit different).
    Mark–This would not give power to the federal government, rather back to the people and from the governors of states.
    BJ–That's the point of a constitutional amendment; all 27 of them in fact!
    Sean–Republican governors are the same, except conservative...

    January 25, 2009 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  23. chad in avery, ca.

    how about having the sen. that leaves appoint his or her successor.
    after all, that person won the seat, so it should be thier choice.

    January 25, 2009 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  24. The Rector

    Special elections won't change a thing. Only party insiders ever get close to these positions of power, and the federal government, by law, can't specify how states conduct their buisness. That is how it should remain.

    January 25, 2009 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  25. Chan Patel

    It is a great idea. Go Russ go. We are with you.

    January 25, 2009 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
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