Get ready for the standoff surrounding Roland Burris to get even weirder, as Senate Democrats map out their options for dealing with disgraced Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich’s pick to replace Barack Obama. Suffice it to say that none of them is pretty.
The best option, of course, would be for all sides to sit down and figure out a way to work this out. But at the moment, it looks like that is not going to happen. As Lynn Sweet reports, Senate Majority Whip (and Illinois senior Senator) Dick Durbin has left at least two telephone messages for Burris, but neither of those calls has been returned. (Burris says he hasn’t figured out how to work his cellphone, which suggests that perhaps he is indeed suited for the Senate.) So the assumption now is that Burris will be showing up Tuesday to get sworn in on the first day of the new congressional session.
The first thing the Senate leadership plans to do is to demand, under Rule 2 of the Standing Rules of the Senate, a certificate containing “the name of the person elected or appointed, the date of the certificate, the name of the governor and the secretary of state signing and countersigning the same, and the State from which such Senator is elected or appointed.”
Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White has said that he does not intend to sign the certificate–but that may not be all that much of an impediment. It turns out that Blagojevich–like every other Governor, I’m told–has a set of certificates that are pre-signed by the Secretary of State, to be used in the event of an emergency. If Burris shows up with one of those, the Senate leadership intends to reject it. But Senate leaders also are preparing for the possibility that Burris will get a Writ of Mandamus ordering the Secretary of State to sign the certificate.
At that point, the first order of business for the Senate would be to vote on a resolution questioning the validity of Blagojevich’s appointment of Burris, and specifically, raising the question that the Governor asked for or received something of value in exchange for naming Burris. (There is, of course, no evidence that anything like this happened.) The resolution would be nondebatable and nonamendable, which means the Republican minority would not be allowed to attach, say, a separate resolution blocking Al Franken from being seated from Minnesota. What happens then? The whole thing would be sent to the Senate Rules and Administration Committee for “investigation.” Said investigation would have a time limit, specifically written to give the Illinois Legislature enough time to impeach Blagojevich, put Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn in the job, and get a new appointment.
Sound complicated? You bet. And the one thing we know about the Senate is that things there rarely play out exactly as planned.
UPDATE: Commenter pourmecoffee has some advice for Burris:
Burris says he hasn’t figured out how to work his cellphone,
Just speak into it and maybe one of Fitzgerald’s people can help him out.
UPDATE2: J-Ham warns that that the Democrats could be giving ammunition to the Republicans.