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. Merle


    January 25, 2009 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  2. Jon Davis

    Regardless of what the forefathers intended, we now allow US citizens to elect their senators, and I agree with Sen. Feingold, this should apply to ALL senators selected regardless of the circumstances.

    January 25, 2009 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  3. Frank, Dayton, Ohio

    This is a bad idea.

    Statewide elections are a terribly expensive and time-consuming process. And, at a time when states are having trouble balancing their budgets, it becomes just another unfunded federal mandate.

    Paterson made a sincere and decent choice, and–thanks to exposure by the press and the federal prosecutors of his intentions–so did Blagojevich. Thus the proposed amendment fixes a problem that does not exist.

    January 25, 2009 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  4. Jody Monroe

    The citizens should elect their reps. They should not be appointed. Period. Ever. This is a move in the right direction.

    Another amendment: If the Senators are not working full-time, they cannot continue receiving paychecks. So if they are busy campaigning, they need to take an unpaid leave of absence. We should not be paying them for work they are NOT doing. That doesn't happen at any private business, why should we allow it in gov't?

    January 25, 2009 06:37 pm at 6:37 pm |
  5. Fatima

    Right on and about time too.

    January 25, 2009 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  6. Matt in Asheville, NC

    We should go back to the way it was before the 17th amendment was introduced in 1913 as set forth in Arcitle 1, Section 3 of the constitution:

    "The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each state, chosen by the legislature thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote."

    Representatives are supposed to represent the people of the state. Senators are supposed to represent the state governments in Washington. The way it is now, senators are nothing more than super representatives. It makes no sense.

    January 25, 2009 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  7. Franky

    "Carolinme Kennedy, by the way is about as unqualified to be a senator as kermit the frog."

    LOL!! Cool, Kermit is cool...

    January 25, 2009 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  8. Jane

    First on the issue of changing the Constitution, this IS what our founding father intended to do by allowing us to change it.

    I think this is an excellent addition to the 17th Amendment. In the past I feel there was nothing wrong with governor's appointing senators (other polticial and ideological disagreements), but in wake of Blagojevich's scandal I feel this is vital to the political future of our country. Whether or not you agree with Burris or the amendment, this will a great start to reforming the corruption that now plagues our politics.

    January 25, 2009 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  9. Annie

    I agree with this proposal of Senator Feingold's. Why hasn't Feingold ever been a contender for the presidency? He's a very sensible person of principles and integrity, to the best of my knowledge.

    To Allen: you would not be seriously suggesting that state legislatures appoint the U.S. senators from their states rather having them elected in a general election if you lived in Illinois, and it was the Illinois debacle (and the New York one probably) that prompted this proposal from Senator Feingold.

    January 25, 2009 06:40 pm at 6:40 pm |
  10. John from NY

    I think this is a great idea.

    I mean, we make such a big deal about voting and the fact that we live in a country where we can democratically choose our leaders and yadda, yadda, yadda...

    Yet in cases like this, where a senator has left their office to pursue higher office, a state's governor can simply point to someone and say, "Wanna be a senator?"
    That makes no sense and it makes a mockery of the electoral process. Feingold's idea is simply a plea for common sense and I think it's high time we actually acknowledged that sometimes common sense is all we need to solve an otherwise vexing problem..

    January 25, 2009 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  11. Terry in Hanover County

    But what about the Gov. Manchin of WVA who's antsy for Senator Byrd's job for years now? I'd prefer special elections but they are expensive when they run outside election cycles. Having the state legislatures appoint someone may be the better option although some legislatures will stall and use it as an excuse to earn overtime pay, like Virginia's Legislature manages to do every year. If anything, our representatives should pay us for putting up with their nonsense.

    January 25, 2009 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  12. AJ

    Feingold sounds like a crackpot here. Has he gone over the bend?

    January 25, 2009 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  13. Ula Nejad Sacramento, Ca

    Ho ho ho. Why refer specifically to the Illinoi governor? Something must be cooking. Good call though.

    January 25, 2009 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  14. Elmer

    Feingold is one of those small thinkers in the federal government who want to grab more control of the rights of the states in the continuing efforts to chip away at states rights–which the constitution make very clear are paramount in dealing with most issues in this country (I am sure he thinks he knows more than the framers of that great document he wants to change to his liking ). Hey, and Feingold, in case you have a short memory, there is no greater circus than what we saw over these last 2 years disguised as the election of a president. Stop infering in states rights with your obvious power grab!!!!!!!

    January 25, 2009 06:42 pm at 6:42 pm |
  15. bobby g

    For the umpteenth time, Feingold shows us why he is the best senator in the United States. Thanks, Russ!

    January 25, 2009 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  16. Ron

    Why doesn't he call for something useful to our republic.....like a balanced budget??

    January 25, 2009 06:45 pm at 6:45 pm |
  17. linda feldman

    Senator Feingold can always be counted on for integrity and keeping the slime of politics out of politics.

    January 25, 2009 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  18. wildflower

    Statewide elections are costly and take time to organize. In the meantime, the people have NO representation. Rather than putting it in the hands of one person, it makes sense to me to have the state legislature handle it. Maybe just the state Senate. And that appointment would only last until the next regular election would be held. At that point, if there is any time left in the term, it would go to the people then.

    January 25, 2009 06:46 pm at 6:46 pm |
  19. jj

    Not that any of this has to do with the article...

    But Sue wrote:
    John Boehner lied about 200 billion dollars going to contraceptives in HR 1454 on Meet the Press…
    there is no such allocation in the entire bill.
    John Boehner is a liar trying to incite violence from the ultra right wing.

    What he actaully said on Meet the Press per the transcript:
    BOEHNER: But spending 44 - or $200 million to fix up the National Mall, $21 million for sod, over $200 million for contraceptives, how does this going to fix an ailing economy?

    Seems to me that you are the one trying to incite the violence.

    January 25, 2009 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  20. PK California

    The Constitution was written at a different time. It should be updated as times dictate.

    January 25, 2009 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  21. dale

    This is a typical Washington response: I don't like what some-state-other-than-mine did, therefore Washington needs to step in and "fix" it. Senate vacancies are relatively rare, the longest an appointed Senator will serve before facing the voters is two years, and special elections are hugely expensive (and don't forget that the bulk of election expenses are borne by cities and counties) and take a long time to put together. Requiring a special election means that a state goes without its full Senate representation until the conclusion of the election.

    This is a solution in search of a problem.

    January 25, 2009 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  22. Anne

    The 17th ammendment already gives us-the citizens-the right to elect our senators.
    I live in NY and now will have a senator that I didn't get a chance to vote for or against , appointed by a governor who wasn't voted in either.
    I like Feingold's idea alot.

    January 25, 2009 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  23. Marie in California

    Great idea! Look at the disaster that Blago visited upon us....first with trying to sell off Obama's Senate seat for money and then with his "spite" appointment of Burris to the Senate.

    Let's also get rid of the outdated Electoral College system while we're at it and elect presidents by popular vote.

    My disgust with the mechanics of the American political process seems to increase almost on a daily basis in recent years.

    January 25, 2009 06:48 pm at 6:48 pm |
  24. Kunal

    Yes, excellent! I always wondered why the governor got to decide who would fill the empty spots. Why not the people? The people, after all, were the ones who elected the original Senators, so why shouldn't those same voters elect the replacement? Another alternative that I would be okay with is if the elected Senator got to appoint his/her own replacement, but I think that Feingold's solution is much better.

    January 25, 2009 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
  25. Will

    Be on guard against people who have petty reasons to change the Constitution. These will only open the door for major changes we will all regret.

    January 25, 2009 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |
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