As the Blagojevich circus continues to unfold, I want to recommend that our readers check out the updates at the Capitol Fax Blog. Today, two of our contributors, John Bambeneck and myself, have been debating on the threads. I hope you’ll join in.
The question of the day is based on a proposal by State Rep. Will Burns, who I got to know when I was working in Springfield. Will is a creative and bright young rising star in the Democratic party. And I always thought he was also a genuinely nice guy.
Rich Miller asks the following question:
The governor is supposed to appoint Barack Obama’s vacant Senate seat. But Rod Blagojevich is under a federal cloud of alleged corruption. And so the question remains on how this position will be filled.
Chicago Democrat Will Burns says he will put forth a bill in January that calls for the Illinois House and Senate to confirm the gubernatorial appointee.
BURNS: Balancing the fiscal problems the state is facing with the need for more disclosure and a better process, I thought that this hybrid proposal provides the public with more transparency.
Burns says a special election would be too costly. His proposal calls for two public hearings on the governor’s appointee. That person would then have to be approved by both chambers in Springfield. If passed, the new law would be limited to the Obama vacancy.
* The Question: Does this seem like a reasonable alternative to you? Or, do you prefer something else, like, perhaps, a special election.
I posted the following comment:
It’s not 100% clear that this complies with the strictures of the 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, but I admire Rep. Burns’s creative solution. The big variable is whether or not Blago would sign such a law or put it in his pocket.
This could also be done informally, the ILGA could give the gov a list of 3 acceptable names.
This is a Constitutional issue because the 17th Amendment says the legislature can give the Governor power to make the appointment:
“When vacancies happen in the representation of any State in the Senate, the executive authority of each State shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies: Provided, That the legislature of any State may empower the executive thereof to make temporary appointments until the people fill the vacancies by election as the legislature may direct.”
The 17th Amendment doesn’t specifically empower the legislature to essentially give the Governor the power to nominate someone subject to their confirmation/ right of refusal.
There remain several potential informal solutions, I’ll mention two, and comment on the second.
1) Governor Blagojevich could agree to pick a name from 3-5 provided to him by party party leaders.
2) Durbin could call upon Blagojevich to make an appointment based on the recommendation of other party leaders/state “elder statesmen” and promise to make sure the pick is seated if Blagojevich goes with the panel’s choice.
This is good for Blagojevich because it gets the appointment out of the way which is one of the exigent circumstances making some want to act quickly to toss him out of office. It is good for the Democrats generally because there is no special election. It’s good for the people of Illinois because their Senator has more seniority. It’s good for the Madigans, if you buy into the “slow-walk” theory, because it removes an exigency for bouncing Blagojevich. It’s good for Durbin because it shows leadership in a difficult time, and any “taint” of working with Blagojevich is overwhelmed by doing the business of the people and the fact that this proposal gives Blagojevich no real input on who the pick will be. And it’s good for U.S. Senate Democrats and Barack Obama because they are one vote closer to sixty from day one.
The only person it’s bad for is Pat Quinn.