Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Anyone Surprised By This?

Not a day after he stood outside while the rest of the Senate was sworn in, it looks like Roland Burris will get his seat, after all:

In an abrupt switch, Senate Democratic leaders began talks on Wednesday about swearing in former Illinois attorney general Roland Burris, nominated by embattled Gov. Rod Blagojevich to replace President-elect Barack Obama in the Senate.

The turnaround came a day after Burris was barred from the Senate chamber when he arrived to take the oath of office.

Senate Democrats Seen Moving To Seat Burris

As I mentioned recently, the refusal to seat Burris never seemed to have much to do with principles. The Senate Democrats have been a tower of jello when it comes to such things in the past. Plus, as Jane Hamsher observed at FireDogLake today, Majority Leader Harry Reid has no skills at bluffing:

[Reid] counters by calling Secretary of State Jesse White, who has already said he won't sign Burris's certification, and encourages him. What White is doing is most certainly outside his legal authority -- the Secretary of State doesn't have veto power. But Reid not only gives White a high five, he tells him they'll use this to keep Burris from being seated.

Then he smugly chortles about how he'll manipulate Senate procedure and punt to the Rules Committee, and assures everyone that they will drag things out for months if necessary until Blago is impeached and his successor appoints someone else. And he does it in the press.

Upon reading this, Cornyn announces that Franken won't have a signed certification either, and the GOP will use it to keep him from being seated,

I Want to Play Poker with Harry Reid

Chris Cilizza at the Washington Post fills in some of the blanks:

By keeping the highest media profile possible, Burris has made clear that he is not planning to simply step aside as the appointed senator from Illinois because of Blagojevich's problem. And, thanks to the carefully orchestrated work of surrogates like Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.), Burris has ensured that the racial component will play a central role in any analysis of the standoff.

The refusal to seat Burris today -- based on the fact that Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White had not formally certified the appointment -- is a temporary solution at best.

If Burris, as expected, continues to assert his constitutional right to the seat, Reid will be faced with a series of difficult choices -- none of which are particularly appealing to Senate Democrats.

Burris Backs Reid Into a Corner

Rush's assertion that this confrontation is based on racism is at least as absurd as the one that it's based on principles. As Jon Stewart joked the other night on The Daily Show, was racism the reason that Reid backed Barack Obama's bid for a separate but equal branch of government? What's more, one could make the case that many groups are underepresented in the Senate: women, atheists, Muslims, Latinos, etc. Tammy Duckworth and Lisa Madigan, the alternatives Reid favored, are both women. One could just as easily, and wrongly, assert that Reid was trying to correct another imbalance.

Needless to say, Harry Reid's skills at making the Senate work on behalf of the nation's citizens haven't improved any with that big new Democratic majority. With this guy in charge, no majority will be big enough.

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