Bum Rushing the Senate

9 01 2009

While on Hardball with Chris Matthews, Congressman Bobby Rush of Illinois made his case for the seating of Roland Burris in the U.S. Senate in very crude terms.  Burris, of course, is  Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s appointee to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama. Like most of Burris’ supporters from Illinois and beyond, Rush argued that whatever scrutiny and taint surrounds the scandal ridden Gov. Blagojevich does not translate into a corrupt political appointment. Perhaps the court of public opinion is not on Illinois governor’s side, but that has no bearing on the legal merits of appointment, which is firmly on Burris’ side. Fine.

But Rush made other remarks revealing an appetite for practicing what is derisively called referred to as the crude art of racial grievance. In particular, Rush said the image of Burris being turned away by the U.S. Senate reminded him “of the dogs being sicked on children in Birmingham, Alabama.”

Damn that just made me me cringe.

There is a big difference between the horrific violence borne out of racial injustice such as murder of of Emmitt Till or the exploits of Bull Connor or the beating of Rodney King or latter day yet lesser known incidences of hate crimes and the Roland Burris affair. For one, no one is out to physically intimate or brutalize Burris.  Secondly, its difficult to imagine that if Burris is not seated it would somehow deter other people of color from running for the same office in the same way unpunished hate crimes in the Jim Crow era would deter people from voting or attending certain schools.

More importantly, deliberately invoking the history of racial violence to advance a purely political fight threatens to trivialize that very history, especially given how its so often discussed but yet so under appreciated. And for it to come from some one who lived through so much of it, as  Congressman Bobby Rush has as a former Black Panther, is even more disappointing. By the same token, Burris’ tacit support for such statements with his silence should not go unnoticed either.

What’s more, the law is already on Burris’ side. Whether you like it or not, Gov. Blagojevich still has the power and authority to appoint Burris. True, the secretary of the U.S. Senate can scrutinize Burris’ credentials and the manner in which he was appointed is less than auspicious, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is not justified in citing the rules of his chamber in deciding whether or not Burris should be seated.

According to Reid, Burris must have his papers signed by the secretary of State of Illinois certifying his appointment and then have it all reviewed by the Senate Rules Committee. But there is no law in requiring an appointee from the Prairie State to get certified by the Secretary of State, its only recommended by the U.S. Senate. So, in short Reid somehow sees a U.S. Senate rule having the force of law, enough in fact to trump state law.

Needless to say, this would not stand in court, and the Illinois State Supreme Court is expected to rule on this matter soon. Of course, all of this is political theater. The Senate Democrats are simply trying to create the impression that they are as intolerant to the mere whiff of political corruption and are probably concerned about having to defend that seat in 2010 when the seat is up for reelection.

But without even a shred of evidence supporting any allegation that Burris himself is implicated in any wrong doing, the U.S. Senate has no choice but to accept the appointment, not become the final arbiter of the rectitude of state appointments.




2 responses

9 01 2009
the friday wrap

[…] what kut has to say about all this stuff going on with burris. was reading an article about the tarp funds earlier, is […]

13 01 2009

I agree, but I find alarming the willingness — nay, eagerness — of Senate leadership to throw crystal clear Constitutional and administrative law over the side.

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