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. Nate

    While I agree that filling Obama's Senate seat was a mess, the cost of, and time required for, a special election would be an unnecessary burden on the states. People need to keep this appointment process in mind when they elect their Governors, or in New York's case Lieutenant Governors.

    January 25, 2009 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  2. Putin still invading Alaskan airspace between Palin's ears

    Thanks to my no nonsense senator from Wisconsin. This is why the guy keeps getting reelected.

    January 25, 2009 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  3. Richard Larson

    I fail to see the reasoning behind this proposed amendment. What should be required is that the Governor selects two or three qualified appointees, then the State Legislatures, as a committee of the whole vote to select and confirm the appointment.

    The special election process only works well when the time between when the opening occurs and the election is limited to less than 90 days. Sixty days would be better. Then the winner should only be determined by that person getting the most votes, and that the seat be open for election at the next general election cycle.

    Further, these special elections should be publicly funded with the amount spent limited with no external monies allowed.

    January 25, 2009 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  4. philip

    Maybe the state legislatures need to do their job and take the power away from the governor or share the responsibility and approve the appointment. Bottomline is, someone needs to appoint them as a special elections would leave a seat open for months and they are expensive, so vacancies should be filled by appointment, not by a vote. We need to quit ammending the consitution for all these frivilous urges.

    January 25, 2009 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  5. Drew

    This is an overreaction to two Senate appointments that a percentage of the electoral block happen to disagree with. The current system has worked with few problems since its implementation. Besides, special elections take time, money, and voter turnout is very low. You won't be happy all the time. In this matter, let the Constitution be, America is facing bigger issues.

    January 25, 2009 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  6. Mark C

    *** That's brilliant, change the consttution because some people disagree with the way it works. So you blow a bunch of tax payer money to hold a special election to replace someone, disrupt peoples lives and disrupt the senate inself. Carolinme Kennedy, by the way is about as unqualified to be a senator as kermit the frog. ***

    Yes, nitwit, that's why we change things: because we DISAGREE WITH THE WAY IT WORKS. The only "disruption" to the Senate was caused by the APPOINTMENT mess. And if you don't like Caroline, the only reason she was being considered was because should could have been APPOINTED.

    I swear I wonder how some people manage to dress themselves in the morning.

    January 25, 2009 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |

    John Boehner..is your typical hafl baked Republican...you can bet he will have some stupid changes he will try to shove down the Democrats throats...Will somebody tell this stupid S>O>B to just shut up...The republicans LOST THE ELECTION...THANK GOD..

    January 25, 2009 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  8. Bob

    Hey Sue, please don't spam ALL the blogs with your nonsense about Boehner. As for your statement:

    "He is trying to incite violence from the ultra right wing… people who are aliterate"

    All I can say is...wow.

    January 25, 2009 08:28 pm at 8:28 pm |
  9. Jim

    Terrible idea by Feingold, unless he switched and became a State Senator over the weekend rather than a United States Senator. While I agree that the gubernatorial appointment power is, at this point, anachronistic, it is not something in which the federal government should meddle. How state elections and vacancies are handled are a matter for states to decided, not the federal government.

    People in Washington need to remember that the federal government did not create the states – the states created the federal government.

    Each time a Member of Congress introduces a constitutional amendment, I am generally relieved that the Founding Fathers wisely made it very difficult to amend our Constitution. They clearly foresaw the kind of silliness proposed by Sen. Feingold.

    January 25, 2009 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  10. state's choice

    Feingold, get out of our business

    January 25, 2009 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  11. Oh No!

    Feingold is right on! As far as "Jon" is concerned, it is more than just a state issue. YOU seem to have forgotten that Senators mostly vote on issues that have nothing to do a specifc state but rather impact us all. Therefore, we all have an interest in be certain the process is as fair as possible. Putting that much power in on person without any criteria does affect every citiizen of this Country when it is used for personal gain (political or financial).

    January 25, 2009 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  12. CathyW

    I'm a liberal, but I disagree with this. It's clearly a states' right issue, not one for the federal government. If the folks in Illinois and NY would prefer to have a special election (and I agree that electing the replacements is superior to a gubernatorial appointment) then they and their lawmakers should see to it at the state level.

    January 25, 2009 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
  13. Scott Grayban

    Every Senate seat should be an elected one regardless of why the seat is empty. The people originally voted for the person that was there in the first place !

    January 25, 2009 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
  14. R. Hahnke

    Thanks Sen Feingold, its refreshing to see someone step forward with a common sense answer to the mess that has been made.

    January 25, 2009 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  15. Intelligentia

    So, everytime we don't get what we want we must change the rules. Senator, before you start your crusade to change the constitution to bar governors from appointing senators, start with a constitutional amendment to (1) limit congressional terms to only 5 years (2) eliminate the electoral college (3) apportion congressional seats based on population make-up. Once we finish with those, we worry about stopping governors from appointing senators.

    January 25, 2009 08:33 pm at 8:33 pm |
  16. Randy

    Don't stop there:
    1. Move the national election to a Saturday
    2. Get rid of the electoral college
    3. Repeal presidential term limits

    January 25, 2009 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  17. Meka

    While your at it . . . Petition for "CONGRESS TERM LIMITS", 12 YEARS–and NO RETIREMENT!

    January 25, 2009 08:38 pm at 8:38 pm |
  18. Perry Cox

    It sounds good in theory, but in practice? I don't know. I don't like these gubernatorial appointments at all, but I think it is a real waste of time, money, and effort to run special elections whenever a senator is promoted, removed from office, resigns, or croaks.

    You guys gotta realize that as much as those who take over Obama's and Clinton's seat are given that much attention, it's because (duh) it's Obama and Clinton – the two biggest ratings hogs for the past year. Not as many senators get this much press for leaving two seats open.

    And think about it this way: how wonderful was that California special election back in the day to get rid of Gov. Davis? Remember what a ridiculous frenzy it was? I mean we had politicians, lawyers, actors, and strippers for crying out loud! Take that and multiply it for every single member of the Senate who is vacating now....magnificent, isn't it? What it does is unleash a leviathan that will consume itself and everything around it in a maelstrom of continual election coverage and money-wasting.

    January 25, 2009 08:38 pm at 8:38 pm |
  19. Nick in Virginia


    There is an old saying that goes "It is better to keep your mouth shut and let people think you don't know anything, than it is to say something and prove it".

    You just proved the "writing" version of that saying.

    The word is "illiterate", not "aliterate" (unless you are talking about words starting with the same sound).

    If you are going to insult people's intelligence, you should at least give people a reason to THINK that you are more intelligent than they are.

    You should have quit after your first post, without the insult.

    January 25, 2009 08:38 pm at 8:38 pm |
  20. Jerome

    I agree totally. Every vacancy should be filled by an election. In Canada it's called a by-election.

    January 25, 2009 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
  21. Peter

    Why not elect senators (regular and vacancy-filling) through a state-level electoral college, modeled after the presidential one?

    That way, a state like Illinois isn't dominated by the main cities,

    (To be fair though I don't know too much about American politics, so maybe something like this is already in use.)

    And to the person who said "Let's follow the Constitution not change it" – this is following the Constitution, it was intended to be open for amendment since Day One. The level of states required to endorse amendments eliminates any concern, I think, about poor changes, and filters only the most helpful amendments through. This one, I believe, would be one of them.

    January 25, 2009 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
  22. scott

    As a former Wisconsin voter, this is the FIRST good idea from Sen. Fingold

    January 25, 2009 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  23. Rick

    Finally a DEMOCRATE with some integrity, nothing like the demoncratic elect president who is blowing smoke up everyones yeng yang, soon all will come out, like who was involved in selling his seat, how many other demoncratics didnt pay taxes and how many foriegn national friends do the clintons really have, soon the truth will be known.

    January 25, 2009 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  24. David

    Let each state decide.

    January 25, 2009 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |
  25. Mark

    what about state rights??? This is a state issue, chicago and new yorks, not wisonsin. Russ go back to fixing the economy...

    January 25, 2009 08:46 pm at 8:46 pm |
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