Fields: Senate Should Stop Playing Games And Seat New Illinois Senator

Guest Columnist

(Sam Fields is a Fort Lauderdale attorney, political activist and knows way more about Mel Brooks movies than I do.)


Unless the Supreme Court does a 180° turn, Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s appointment to the United States Senate will eventually be seated.

Notwithstanding that Blago is the nation’s biggest sleazebago, the Constitution is clear.  Senators may hold their respective noses but they must do their duty and seat the new Illinois senator.

Article I, Section 3 lays out the qualifications for member of Congress. There are only three:

 No person shall be a Senator who shall not have attained the age of
 thirty years, and been nine years a citizen of the United States, and
 who shall not, when elected, be an inhabitant of that state for which
 he shall be chosen.

I don’t think anyone is suggesting that Blago’s appointment — former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris — does not meet those qualifications.

Section 5 tells us that “Each House shall be the judge of the elections, returns and qualifications of its own members.

While that may sound like a broad brush, in 1969 the Supreme Court limited the brush stokes to the three prerequisites listed above with the justices’ decision in Powell v McCormack, 395 US 486,  89 S.Ct. 1944 (1969).

In case you are not familiar with the case, it involved the famous/infamous Adam Clayton Powell.

Adam Clayton Powell

 A House investigation concluded he was padding his office account.

Article I, Section 5 of the Constitution provides for either House to “punish it members for disorderly behavior and with the concurrence to two thirds expel a member.

But the session adjourned before Powell could be expelled.

In November 1966 he was reelected.

Powell attempted to take his seat with the new Congress in January 1967.  He was denied admission and sued.

The court upheld Powell’s position that limited the test of admission to election results and the three qualifications which no one disputed he met. 

Could they have admitted him and then voted him out?

Most probably.  But they didn’t.

So it goes with Burris.  Since Blago is the governor and the Illinois Constitution empowers only the governor to pick Obama’s replacement, there is nothing the Senate can do except postpone the inevitable.

 Furthermore while Blago is the real life version of Mel Brooks‘character in Blazing Saddles,  no one is suggesting that former Attorney General Burris has anything in common with Attorney General Hedy, oops,  I mean Hedley LaMarr

Burris should be seated.

The people of Illinois should decide to endorse or reject Burris in the 2010 elections. 

With all the problems we are dealing with the last thing we need is another unnecessary political dustup to drag out for the next two years.


One Response to “Fields: Senate Should Stop Playing Games And Seat New Illinois Senator”

  1. Sam Is Correct Here says:

    Sam Fields is correct here in every respect. For better or worse Blagojevich is the governor and so he has the right to appoint a replacement US Senator. His choice is certainly qualified and the Senate has no basis to deny him. I don’t like this Governor or his behavior. But I also sense that the outgoing Bush Justice Department is doing all it can to prosecute this case hoping that another Democrat won’t be appointed to the Senate. I’m also unsure whether what the Governor actually did will be technically sufficient to get a conviction in this case, and so I think the odds are about even that the entire thing could get dropped.