Thursday, January 8, 2009

White Flight

As mentioned yesterday, the Secretary of the Senate refused to recognize Roland Burris's credentials because they're not signed by the Illinois Secretary of State. Now this same Secretary of State, Jesse White, who refused to sign Burris's credentials, has excoriated the Senate Democrats, saying that they should seat Burris without his signature! And he's supported by Lisa Madigan, Illinois's Attorney General, who says there's no law requiring him to sign.

Now, this is ridiculous. I suggested yesterday that White is probably correct that his signature isn't really required for Burris's credentials to be valid, but the Senate has done things its way for over 100 years and expects that signature. And for him to say that he's not required to sign is a pretty huge stretch. As Burris's legal memorandum shows, Illinois law requires the Secretary of State to countersign and seal all commissions required by law to be issued by the Governor. Now, we could have a long argument about whether Burris's certificate of appointment is a "commission" and whether it is "required by law to be issued by the Governor," but rather than parse each of these terms in the finest degree, let's think about the intent and purpose of this Illinois law. Obviously, the whole point is that the Secretary of State is to act, ministerially and without discretion, to make the Governor's commissions effective. And it's pretty imprortant to make effective the certificate of a U.S. Senator from Illinois! Petty argumentation about whether this is really a "commission" in the Illinois statutory sense is absurd.

The Illinois Secretary of State is not supposed to be screwing around like this. It's part of his job to sign this commission whether or not he agrees with it. After all, in states where the Secretary of State is separately elected, as I'm guessing he is, the Secretary of State might be of a different party than the Governor, and/or of a different political party than the elected or appointed U.S. Senator. But that doesn't mean the Secretary of State can act to block the new Senator. It is his duty to countersign and seal the credentials, even if he thinks the Senator-to-be is a complete boob who shouldn't be in the Senate. Or if he doesn't like the Governor.

This has gone far enough. I previously suggested that the Illinois Attorney General was grandstanding; now it's the Illinois Secretary of State. It's time for people to accept that Rod Blagojevich is still, as of this moment, the Governor of Illinois. If the state legislature wants to impeach and remove him, let it do so, following the proper procedures. Until then, he's the Governor, he has the power to appoint a Senator, and it's the duty of the Secretary of State to follow the usual procedure and countersign the certificate.

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