Nobody is questioning the fact that Burris is clearly a well qualified man for the job. He is the eldest black statesman from Illinois, served as the first black elected to two high-power positions, and basically laid the groundwork for Obama. He also has a granite carving of his qualifications, and it is quite impressive. Also, nobody is arguing that Blagojevich has the power to appoint Obama’s replacement. Really, the Senate is arguing that they have the right to make a power play over the states, and this is essentially a bad move.
While currently there is a state-wide court battle to confirm Burris as appointed (the SoS is refusing to do it, but the office will probably be ordered to by a court), the bigger battle is with the Senate. The Senate is arguing that they have the power to decide who is admissible into their membership. By using Article 1, section 5 of the Constitution the Senate is arguing:
“judge of the elections, returns and qualifications of its own members”.
Basically, the Senate is saying that they have the right to decide who becomes a member of the Senate, and who does not.
The Senate, as has been their fashion lately, is conveniently ignoring the fact that the Constitution then spells out what the qualifications are in Section 3 of Article 1:
“No person shall be senator who shall not have attained to the age of 30 years, and been nine years a citizen of the United States.”
Basically, the Senate can enforce these conditions, but if the person meets them, and they were put in legally, as Burris was, then they must be allowed to be in the Senate.
The Senate, of course, disagrees with the Constitution.
The Supreme Court, who, on the other hand like the Constitution, has held that the qualifications are not up to the Senate to decide. In ruling against the House the court said that:
“The House is without power to exclude any member-elect who meets the Constitution's requirements for membership”
Basically, if they meet the requirements (age, residency, etc.) then they have the right and power to be seated in the House. This ruling should also apply to the Senate.
Basically, the Senate is ignoring the Constitution and precedent simply to make a political point.
Now, let’s take this a step further, let’s talk about the fact that this is an attack on state’s rights. While I support state’s rights somewhat, depending on the situation, I see this as a major attack on the power of each state in picking their own leaders. Sure, this is a very iffy nomination, and arguably, it shouldn’t be happening, but that is irrelevant. The Senate is blocking a legally selected appointee from their position! This should be freaking people out, I mean, the Senate could, in the future, BLOCK AND ELECTED PERSON, simply because they disagree with who the person is. No citizen of the US should support this move, as it greatly harms the states.
Lets take this even further, what if the Senate decided that it wanted to punish Ohio? Well, they could remove Voinovich and Brown, or just not let them talk. What if Brown proposed a measure that they didn’t like, but that would help Ohio out, well, they could fire him. Think about it, the body that was created to represent the states will be able to override them, simply because they disagree.
Basically, I think that the Senate should seat Burris as he is the legal appointee to the seat left vacant by Obama. Plus, if they do not at least let him vote (via phone) as the Junior Senator from Illinois, then I think the state should sue.
As a side not, I think that Blago himself should show up to the Senate. Forum rules provide him the right to walk around and address (not formally) the body. Seriously, this would be hilarious and kickass.