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. Nathan

    To SEG:

    You can follow the Constitution and chage it. Article 5, check it out.

    January 25, 2009 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  2. Sufjan Stevens

    Roy Blagojevich is a rare corrupt Democrat in Illinois where Republicans have been convicted for corruption in the past.

    He is just a handful of his type, the Republicans in the meantime have many corrupt politicians in their history such as: Richard Nixon, Warren G. Harding, Ted Stevens, Oliver North, Scooter Libby, North Dakota Republicans, Michael Foley, George W. Bush & Dick Cheney, Tom Delay and others that have not been caught...yet.

    Congress has not had a high approval rating in the last two years but it is because the Republicans have purposely gridlocked and voted against progressive bills designed mostly by the majority Democrats. But the American people know this and that's why they re-elected many Democratic incumbent Senators & House Representatives. The Congress capabilities and capacity will be enhanced by the new presidency of Barack Obama and his Cabinet which is great. Unlike the previous incompetent, corrupt & imperialist administration of the past 8 years.

    January 25, 2009 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  3. Donald Cooper

    Feingold, along with liberal left of the party, is pissed that Caroline wasn't crowned. She didn't have the skills to be a Senator. New York state did not want a Senator who would be promoting Gay rights and Darfur and other liberal pet projects at the expense of the common good of New Yorkers. Fundamentals, such as public speaking and being compfortable in public, were simply foreign to Kennedy. That said the problem with requiring federal government requiring "special elections" is that outside political forces could manipulate the situation. Secondly, in the case of New York a "special election" will be held in 2010. Why should a state go without a Senator for such a long period of time? And if the amendment would require an immediate election who pays for it and how would politicians raise money, get their message out without having to except money from PACs and lobbying groups. The simple fact of the matter is the system is not perfect, but for a U.S. Senator to call a state governmental process an "anachronism" is a joke.

    January 25, 2009 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  4. Ben Manski

    Go Russ!

    January 25, 2009 08:00 pm at 8:00 pm |
  5. John

    Very smart . . . but I don't think it will work.

    January 25, 2009 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  6. Robert

    I think the system works pretty good now. Even in the case of Blago, who hasn't been convicted of anything, a pretty decent replacement was named. Same goes in New York. One would have to ask how fast a special election could be held if no one was named. And is a state willing to not be represented while candidates scramble for a short notice election.
    Give it a rest, Russ.

    January 25, 2009 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  7. BT in CO

    Special elections are a further, unecessary waste of money for a temporary appointment.

    January 25, 2009 08:01 pm at 8:01 pm |
  8. Kevin in Seattle

    Let the states decide the best way to deal open senate seats. Is Senator Feingold going to pay for the special elections he is trying to mandate?

    January 25, 2009 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
  9. Kirby

    This just the start of the stupidity. The good news is there are enough elections over the next couple years to get the idiots out of office.

    January 25, 2009 08:02 pm at 8:02 pm |
  10. Jon

    While he's at it, lets also change the constitution to include terms limits for both houses of congress. If its good enough for the president, its good enough for them.

    January 25, 2009 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  11. Jeff of Peoria

    ABSOLUTELY Totally agree. Had we had elections in the first place we wouldn't have Burris REPRESENTING IL. NO WAY he wins.

    January 25, 2009 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  12. jesuino leduino rosa

    Hi is not going to last.

    January 25, 2009 08:04 pm at 8:04 pm |
  13. Lusi

    This is not a federal government matter...this is a state issue. Fed's needs to stay out and let the process work like it has work, until this Illinois corrupt jerk got involved.


    January 25, 2009 08:04 pm at 8:04 pm |
  14. Lucas

    We can control lobbying anytime we want to with a simple amendment that says, unless you are a constituent of the office holder, you cannot waste his time, in person or in writing.

    January 25, 2009 08:04 pm at 8:04 pm |
  15. The Writer

    Feingold is wrong again! You don't change the constitution because of ONE corrupt governor at ONE point in history. The federal government has too much power and continues to try to get more and more despite what the constitution states. Has anyone out there read the history of our country? If you have you'd know that the founding fathers were concerned about our country having a central government that was too powerful. Do you even know that the present form of government we have was not the FIRST ONE THEY CAME UP WITH??? Have you ever heard of the Articles of Confederation??? The founding fathers were so concerned about an overly powerful central government that the first government they came up with was so weak it didn't even work! When they saw it wouldn't work, they constructed the one we have now! Hello? Wake up out there!

    January 25, 2009 08:04 pm at 8:04 pm |
  16. Suzi

    The change should only be made if it leads to more effective government, not because people are complaining. People are ALWAYS complaining about something.

    If there are special elections that will take more time to have a resolution, as well as money by politicians as well as the state. The politicians wouldn't have time for primaries and for citizens to get to know them. And these elections are notorious for drawing small numbers of voters.

    This proposed change doesn't necessarily mean the voters are being heard, just that there is the appearance of impartiality.

    There are other alternatives. State legislatures could do the appointing or vote on candidates suggested by the governor. Voters would have time to contact their representatives.

    No matter what choice is made, there will people who are unhappy, so the change should only be made if it makes government more effective.

    January 25, 2009 08:05 pm at 8:05 pm |
  17. RP Michigan

    Just one more attack against State's rights. This is a state matter and not the US Senate's matter. This is spelled out in both the State Constitution and the US Constitution. Leave it at that. Does Feingold want to have a say in who becomes Dog Catcher?

    January 25, 2009 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  18. Todd

    I'd take it one step further to say to say that you cannot be a sitting member of the House or Senate when you attempt to run for a higher office. If you're constantly moving up that ladder while already holding a seat what kind of actual representation are you actually giving your constituents?

    January 25, 2009 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  19. Robert

    Sue: John Boehner was referring to the Medicaid program that gives states $9 for every dollar spent on family planning. A portion of that money is for contraceptives, but doesn't build jobs or improve the economy. They're not spending $200 million on condoms, but his point about nothing improving the ecomony coming from this should be well taken.

    And I am not the ultra right wing...just a guy that knows you can't borrow money to get out of debt.

    January 25, 2009 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
  20. William

    While he is at it, we need term limits for all U.S. Representatives and Senators!!!!!

    January 25, 2009 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  21. Ridgeway

    He's right.
    And Sue. What is "aliterate"? Is that something like "illiterate" just spelled wrong?
    Like alegal iliens are aliterate? Or is it just you?

    January 25, 2009 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  22. capnmike

    Senators are elected officials. What is so bad about holding a special election? While we are at it, let's get rid of the Electoral College, and permit "Votes of no confidence" in the President...make this a TRUE Democracy!

    January 25, 2009 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  23. justin

    Who's Roy Blagojevich? I know the governor of Illinois is Rod Blagojevich, but I've never heard of a Roy.

    January 25, 2009 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  24. Ridgeway

    Yes, but more importantly we need a law against follicle abuse. The governor's flagrant abuse of his hair is a travesty. A crime against bald men every where. We need a bill to mandate redistribution of the hair.
    "No one shall have excess until all have some."

    January 25, 2009 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  25. ken

    jon jon jon – having the state hold an election would still make it a state election. its nice to see a senator actually propose amending the constitution on a truly constitutional matter, as opposed to say, constitutionally dictating who may marry, etc. of course, i live in Florida where we have an amendment to protect the living space of a pregnant pig, so i am so deep down the rabbit hole i can hardly see the light....

    January 25, 2009 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
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