No Welcome Mat For Burris

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In many ways, the real beginning of the Obama Administration will not be on January 20, but rather, on Tuesday, when the new Congress shows up to begin work on his agenda. Except that may not be what gets everyone’s attention that day.

Senate leaders say they have prepared a contingency plan for what they will do if Roland Burris shows up to take the seat to which disgraced Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich has appointed him:

The aide familiar with Senate Democratic leaders’ plans said if Burris tries to enter the Senate chamber, the Senate doorkeeper will stop Burris. If Burris were to persist, either trying to force his way onto the Senate floor or refusing to leave and causing a scene, U.S. Capitol Police would stop him, said the aide.

“They (police) probably won’t arrest him” but they would call the sergeant-at-arms,” the aide said.

Argh. The Senate leadership is on questionable legal ground here–a fix that is in part its own making, because Harry Reid resisted the idea of a special election to fill Barack Obama’s Senate seat. As it stands, Blagojevich is still the Governor of Illinois, and Burris meets the constitutional requirements for being a Senator: He is over 30 years old, has been a citizen for at least nine years and is a resident of the state that he would represent. The most relevant legal precedent would suggest that Congress does not have the power to add any other requirements.

Over at Firedoglake, Jane Hamsher and Ian Welsh have an interesting debate going on about which side is right in this standoff. I think the real winner is going to be the person who comes up with some kind of negotiated settlement that makes sure it doesn’t come to this on Tuesday.