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The Senate Should Obey the Law and Seat Roland Burris

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Message Hargrove Jones

On Tuesday, January 6, 2009, the United States Senate prevented Roland Burris from appropriating his Senate Seat. Their explanation was that the certificate that authorizes his appointment to the Senate is not signed by the Illinois Secretary of State. But while the Secretary of State is authorized to verify an appointment by the Governor, that verification is not required, especially when, as in the case of Roland Burris, the appointment is a matter of public knowledge.

Secretary of the United States Senate Nancy Erickson rejected Burris' certificate of appointment to the Senate as invalid. Erickson cited Senate Rule 2 as the reason for the rejection.


RULE 2. The Secretary shall keep a record of the certificates of election and certificates of appointment of Senators by entering in a wellbound book kept for that purpose the date of the election or appointment, the name of the person elected or appointed, the date of the certificate, the name of the governor and the secretary of state signing and countersigning the same, and the State from which such Senator is elected or appointed.

Rule 2 is merely a recounting of a record keeping procedure, duly overseen by a Secretary. It simply instructs the Secretary to record "the date of the certificate, the name of the governor and the secretary of state signing and countersigning the same," it does not say that the Secretary should insure that there is a signature. As a matter of fact, it infers quite the opposite, in Senate Rule 3, which indicates that the parties don't even have to use the form! "(T)hey may use such forms if they see fit."

RULE 3. The Secretary of the Senate shall send copies of the following recommended forms to the governor and secretary of state of each State wherein an election is about to take place or an appointment is to be made so that they may use such forms if they see fit.

On national television, and before the world, Roland Burris' appointment by Governor Blagojevich was verified! By denying Roland Burris his Senate seat, the Senate is deferring to a public servant who refused to perform his duty, and it is denying the authority of a duly elected governor. In so doing, the Senate is defying the law, and exceeding its authority.

The legislature has declared, both in the Constitution of the United States, and in the Illinois Statute, that a governor has the right, and the responsibility, to appoint a replacement when a Senate seat is vacated. By refusing to seat Burris, a duly appointed Senator, the Senate is violating the law.

We have exemplary laws in America, but it is behavior like the Senate is exhibiting, namely, selectively obeying the law, that undermines the fabric of this nation.

Finally, there is a greater tolerance for rudeness and unfairness when the object is a person of African descent. White men, who are duly appointed to the Senate, are not excluded. Ted Stevens was allowed on the Senate floor, in violation of the rules, after he was ousted and convicted of seven felonies. Despite that, he was given a standing ovation, which is also against Senate Rules . . . And the same Harry Reid, who rejects Burris as tarnished because his appointment was by a governor who was accused of wrong doing, *gave an "ode" to the convicted felon, Stevens.

It is significant to note that 100% of the legislators, who required court action to effectuate their status, were of African descent.

If Governor Blagojevich had wanted to hurt the Democrats, he could have appointed a Republican, and sat back laughing while the Republicans force the Democrats to honor the appointment. Instead, he gave the Democrats what they claim to want; but he did it out of his own authority, and they can not sit still for that, because they want to render him impotent.

The Democrats must decide if their interest in destroying each other is more important than their mandate from the people, for leadership that will bring us together.

*For the record, I actually like the fact that the Senate did not kick their colleague when he was down, what I don't like, is that some people who deserve at least as much, get a whole lot less.

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Student of social dynamics, especially as it relates to issues of race and sex.
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