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    The Burris-Murkowski Double Standard

    The Burris-Murkowski Double Standard

    Harry Reid and Dick Durbin have been adamant that they will not seat Roland Burris unless Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White signs a certificate in the form recommended in Senate Rule 2. Durbin was particularly emphatic that no appointee, ever, has been seated in the Senate without this form of certificate:

    As Majority Leader Reid has told you, this has been a rule in the United States Senate since 1884. And since 1917, when we started the popular election of the Senators, we have never, ever waived this rule for any election or appointment.

    Everyone has to present a certificate, signed by the governor, cosigned by the Secretary of state, never been waived in the history of the United States Senate.

    Reid and Durbin are wrong. Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski (photo) was appointed by her father, Frank Murkowski, and the Certificate of Appointment for Murkowski does not bear the signature of a Secretary of State. Nor could there be, since Alaska (along with five other states) does not have a “Secretary of State.”

    I can find no record of Reid or Durbin objecting to the lack of a Rule 2 certification in the case of Murkowski, yet they are willing to risk a constitutional crisis in the case of Burris. So why the double standard?


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    I guess we differ on several things.

    First, the motivation of Reid and Durbin; they announced they wouldn’t accept a Blagojevich appointee before the certificate issue came up, then again after the appointment even before Jesse White said he wouldn’t sign. So clearly the certificate is the excuse, not the reason, they are refusing to seat Burris.

    Second, the constitutional issue is whether the Senate could impose extra-constitutional requirements on an appointee; I don’t think the Senate can, and this example proves the point because the Secretary of State becomes the gatekeeper even though state law (which we must follow as to the lawfulness of the appointment) does not give the White that power.

    Third, you are turning a matter of practice and directions as to recordkeeping into requirements even though the Rule could have said so directly if that is what the Senate intended.

    One thing that IS clear is that the Rule does NOT require the signature of the “Secretary of State” as Reid and Durbin have stated (apparently you have more nuanced versions of their statement, I would be curious as to the date, and whether the statements came recently as they have softened their position under criticism).

    Thanks for the dialogue.

    “Jane’s” last post seem prophetic. Did she know something we didn’t know? Was she one of the people in on the decision-making? Am I paranoid, or correct, or both? Care to comment?

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