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. Just an opinion

    Patterson's behavior is more like Republican spy agent. The decision would favor Republicans to pick up the Senator seat next election. The new nominee is way different from Hillary Clinton. One absolute factor should have been to pick a person who is like the former seat holder.
    Caroline Kennedy should run for the Senate seat in coming election to restore the Kennedy legacy.

    January 25, 2009 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  2. Rob Stumpf

    Russ Feingold is such a nut. There are ALREADY special elections for Senators, but they are often too expensive and too pointless to be done immediately. What's the point of an election now, and an election next year? In emergency situations, it makes sense that the governor should make the appointment.

    The governor of Colorado appointed a new Senator, and you barely have heard anything about it. That's usually how these things go.

    January 25, 2009 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  3. Mary

    Problem elections are expensive and most state are in debt. Who pays for a special election

    January 25, 2009 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  4. janice

    about time

    January 25, 2009 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  5. Brian

    Who would make the appointments, special elections????? It sounds good to me, but would need to know more.

    January 25, 2009 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  6. ran

    Good it is about time but I don't see it getting much traction.

    January 25, 2009 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  7. Mark

    The federal govt has too much power already. The states will never ratify this amendment.

    January 25, 2009 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  8. Eugene

    You go, Russ!

    January 25, 2009 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  9. Robert

    I completely agree with Feingold!

    January 25, 2009 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  10. SEG

    Let's try and follow the Constitution not change it.

    January 25, 2009 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  11. jonathan

    How often does this even happen? Twice this election season, but how often in the past? Can we focus on more pressing matters at hand please rather than altering the constitution.

    January 25, 2009 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  12. Toby in Illinois

    Allen has a great point. I'd go a little further and put the election of the President back into the hands of the Electoral College, so that we would elect people we know and trust to decide among all eligible people and who are not committed to one or another candidate. That would really be a blow to special interest influence as well as to the two-year circus leading up to elections.

    January 25, 2009 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  13. Andrew

    This ignored the 9-11 possibility. What if the capitol had been hit and all the Senators dead? What if a nuke hit Washington and the entire federal govt. was dead?

    With the governors being able to appoint replacements immediately the Senators could convene, choose a Senate President pro tem, and that person would act as president.

    The rest of the Senate could approve much needed cabinet secretaries.

    I oppose this amendment. If it allowed 120-180 day appointments followed by an election, then that would be fine.

    January 25, 2009 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  14. Bylone

    I this is a great idea! We need more people fighting on behalf of the people.

    January 25, 2009 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  15. The Ghost of Ronnie

    But, who will pay for these elections..... Oh yeah, The Messiah will just rub his magic genie bottle and PUFF....more money will appear.

    January 25, 2009 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  16. kay

    Works for me. I'd also like to see term limits and a requirement that excess campaign funds be returned to the Treasury. I'd like to see caps on funds used for campaigning. The most important revision that I would like to see is Elected Officials going on hiatus to campaign, and relinqushing their salaries while campaigning for office. We taxpayers really get "stiffed" and "double-dipped" by all these "Electeds working on our Dime". Am a yellow-dog Democrat, but Pelosi giving her hubs $ 10,000 in excess campaign funds for his business makes me gag. She's probably the tip of the iceberg. Phooey!

    January 25, 2009 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  17. Richard Neffson

    Good idea to take the power to appoint U.S. Senators away from less than competent governors. While we are at it let's get rid of the Electoral College that was designed by our Founding Fathers because they did not trust the people to choose a president. Every president who lost the popular vote but won the presidency through either the Electoral College or a vote by the House of Representatives has been a failure. Here is the short list: John Quincy Adams, Rutherford B. Hayes, Benjamin Harrison, and the biggest failure of them all GEORGE BUSH (43).

    January 25, 2009 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  18. JD

    Good for Feingold. I have been in favor of this for a long time.

    January 25, 2009 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  19. curiousboutlife

    It is just the Democratic governors who turn the appts. into circuses.

    January 25, 2009 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  20. Jim Nordblom

    A good idea, but, how do you expect to fund this? Yet another drain on the taxpayers?

    January 25, 2009 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  21. Tom

    I never agree with Fiengold, but he is right about this issue! Go for it Senator, this Conservative agrees with you! maybe we can find common ground "Yes We Can!"

    January 25, 2009 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  22. Susan, Albany, NY

    Feingold took word out of my mouth.

    In third-world countries such as India, there is a system for immediate election in case of an elected person forfeits or dies. Why can't we take it from them.

    End this stupidity.

    January 25, 2009 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  23. Vin

    Actually, I agree with Sen. Feingold. If we are to have a government of, by, and for the people, then it bloody well needs to BE a government of, by, and for the people. While he's proposing to eliminate anachronisms, we also need to get rid of the Electoral College. There is no good reason for not electing our President by popular vote in the 21st century.

    January 25, 2009 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  24. Tom, Bradenton,FL

    I agree, Caroline Kennedy was as unqualified as Gillibrand is. It is a political circus of favors and who knows who game. Why not holding special elections and allow the people to decide?

    January 25, 2009 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  25. Bob the Observer

    I agree wholeheartedly with Allen. Most of our amendments (after the first 10) have been horrible distortions to the original intent of the Constitution, and the seventeenth is a prime example. The founding fathers never intended for the senate to be the House "Express." There was a reason the senators were chosen by state legislatures.

    We definitely don't need another amendment. We already have too many, and need to repeal about half of them. We could start by repealing the seventeenth.

    January 25, 2009 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
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