At today’s presser, the Blagovernor announced his choice of former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris to fill Barack Obama’s Senate seat, and then Rep. Bobby Rush gave Burris a big thumbs up.
The Rush endorsement was, I think, the most important news. Rush (the guy to whom Obama lost a House race a while back) represents a big chunk of Chicago's African-American population. In a direct appeal to allow the appointment to go forward, so that the Senate will have at least one Black member, Rush said: "I would ask you not to hang or lynch the appointee as you try to castigate the appointer. Separate, if you will, the appointee from the appointer. Roland Burris is worthy." Rush promised to push acceptance of Burris in the Congressional Black Caucus and the Senate.
Meanwhile, the Senate Democratic Majority issued this statement: "Under these circumstances, anyone appointed by Gov. Blagojevich cannot be an effective representative of the people of Illinois and, as we have said, will not be seated by the Democratic Caucus." Barack Obama quickly agreed that the Senate Democrats "cannot accept an appointment made by a governor who is accused of selling this very Senate seat."
That's all well and good, but the Senate's unwillingness to make it absolutely clear in advance that no one appointed by Blago would be seated, period, left the Blagovernor this opening to name a guy it might become touchy to refuse. In any case, if the Senate does refuse to seat Burris, he and can go to court and stands a fair chance of winning. A protracted battle would leave one half of Illinois' Senate representation in limbo for at least many months.
The Illinois Secretary of State also jumped into the fray, saying he would not "co-sign" the certification of Burris's appointment. It's not clear what the effect of this might be except to give the Senate a hook to hang their refusal on and launch another lawsuit.
Not surprisingly, Lt. Governor Pat Quinn renewed his call for Blago's impeachment, but the impeachment row may yet turn out to be a hard one to hoe.
Blago, Burris and Rush all made a point of asking people to judge Burris on his own merits, separately from their opinions about Blagojevich, and by all accounts, Burris, 71, has had a long career in public service free of controversy. This, combined with Rush's appeal to seat a man who would be the one and only African-American among 100 Senators, could prove to be an argument that carries weight with millions of African-Americans in Illinois. If so, Blagojevich might win himself some support from a key constituency and throw another obstacle in the way of the move to impeach him.
We'll soon find out. In any case, the Illinois Legislature should be ashamed of its failure to pass a bill stripping Blago of his appointment power when it had the chance.