The Trail: A Daily Diary of Campaign 2008


The Rundown

An End to Senate Appointments?

By Ben Pershing
It's a bit strange to wake up on a Monday morning and not have some bizarre Senate appointment fight to follow, isn't it? Kirsten Gillibrand will soon be sworn in to the chamber, and Caroline Kennedy can try to go back to her old life (which may be what she wanted). Roland Burris is practically a Senate veteran at this point, and not getting much attention on the Hill, even as the man who appointed him continues to star in a self-created circus. (Just think, we could have had Sen. Winfrey.)

Entertainment value aside, is there a way to avert future dramas such as these? Russ Feingold thinks so, and he plans to introduce a constitutional amendment requiring that vacant Senate seats be filled by special election, rather than appointment. "The controversies surrounding some of the recent gubernatorial appointments to vacant Senate seats make it painfully clear that such appointments are an anachronism that must end," Feingold said.

Is this a necessary remedy? After all, there was no appointment in Minnesota, and that contest is still a mess. Four states already require special elections to fill empty seats without any appointments, and several others call for "fast" special elections, with the appointees only serving a short time. And of the four appointments that have happened this year, two were dramatic but the other two -- Colorado and Delaware -- were not. But the latter two states did see the appointment of senators who may not have been voters' first choice; Michael Bennet was definitely a surprise pick, and Ted Kaufman is widely seen as a placeholder for the Biden family.

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Posted at 8:14 AM ET on Jan 26, 2009  | Category:  The Rundown
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Whoops, my bad. Wrong room.

Posted by: hobsry7350 | January 27, 2009 3:29 PM


$825,000,000,000/350,000,000 people = $2357.14 per person

Posted by: hobsry7350 | January 27, 2009 3:28 PM

Did some quick math:

$350,000,000,000/350,000,000 people = 1000.00 per person.

Posted by: hobsry7350 | January 27, 2009 3:26 PM

I disagree with this amendment. If a Democrat holds the seat, they should be replaced by another Democrat until the next regular election. If a Republican holds the seat, they should be replaced by another Republican until the next regular election. The only election I would back would be one that's limited to being within the party of the seat being vacated. That is, in these cases, a Democratic primary. The Democratic party could even put forward 3 candidates. What I dislike is where a Governor appoints someone of their party who's not in the same party as the person vacating the seat or where this happens by who's in the "next in line" position (Arizona governorship, where a Republican Secretary of State succeeded Janet Napolitano).

Posted by: abcs86 | January 26, 2009 11:06 PM

Hey, Senator Russ Feingold:
Why stop halfway? Why don't you include a SECOND Amendment to your bill? How about getting rid of the Electoral College and have the people elect their President dirctly?

Posted by: hobsry7350 | January 26, 2009 3:35 PM

I have lived in Illinois all my life, a long time. I have been political since JFK in 1960. There are two political systems in Illinois; Illinois and Chicago. Never allow yourself to think otherwise.
Were it not for Chicago Politics, Kennedy wouild not have 'carried' Illinois.
This mess that is now witnessed in my state is a fight between Illinois Politics and Chicago Politics.
Blagojovich is Chicago Politics and Illinois Politics are pushing back, as it has since Rod's second year.
He is attempting to run the state ala Chicago Politics and other politicians, Illinois Politics are trying to break this past. Impeachment talk was circulating well prior to Blagojovich's recent election. Had the Reps had a stronger candidte than Barr-Topinka, Rod would have been defeated. Hell, if Ryan hadn't been the Rep governor immediately prior, Rod would not have won the first time.

Posted by: green39 | January 26, 2009 1:52 PM



The controversy over former Raytheon executive William Lynn's nomination as deputy defense secretary has yet to center on what should be the main objection...

...the fact that his former employer is a major producer of RADIATION WEAPONRY (a/k/a "directed energy weapons") capable of inflicting silent, potentially lethal injury and of inducing illnesses and ailments ranging from aneurysms, strokes and heart attacks to eye/vision damage and cancer.

This radiation weaponry has been, and continues to be, widely deployed among units of the military, intelligence and law enforcement, on the federal and local levels.

This weaponry arguably poses a GREATER risk to humanity than nuclear weapons, since wide availability virtually guarantees misuse -- including misuse as a tool of TORTURE.

And there is evidence that such misuse already is happening -- perhaps with the knowledge of some government officials.

If Lynn makes it to the hearings stage, Congress should question him closely on the deployment of radiation weaponry among law enforcement agencies that deal with the general public.

Here is some source material:


Posted by: scrivener50 | January 26, 2009 11:52 AM

My two cents worth says this is an issue for the individual states. I think we can do without BIG BROTHER telling us what is right.

This is a good example of American political life. Appointees are beholden to the party that appoints them. It is usually done without much fuss or bother.

We have the, soon to be umemployed or in jail, Governor of Illinois, to take this out of the norm.

Tempest in a teapot. Mr. Feingold, while I respect you, I think you have far more important things to do than this non-issue

Posted by: Thatsnuts | January 26, 2009 11:12 AM

No other process works quickly enough to ensure that a state and its tax-paying citizens has its proper representation in the US Senate. Appointment by a state governor is the most expedient and (generally) clean manners to fill a vacant seat. Within a year or two the appointee has to defend the seat anyway.

So is democracy served by a "special election" with low participation and huge influxes of out-of-state money from special interests and national parties who have nothing else to worry about except for a special Senate race in (insert state name here) - while the work of the US Senate continues without a full state delegation - or is democracy served by an appointed Senator representing the people of their state in the US Senate? I would vote for door #2.

Drama will accompany anything in American politics, but the appointment process is cleaner in theory and in practice than any special election . . . not to mention much less expensive and less annoying.

Posted by: chrisduckworth | January 26, 2009 10:55 AM

Considering the challenges of getting a Constitutional Amendment passed, I'm skeptical of whether this will be enacted or not.

Also, if we look at the turnout numbers for voting in anything OTHER than a regularly scheduled election, fill-in legislators will end up being elected by perhaps 5% of eligable voters. Why? Because the costs for advertising the election, introducing candidates etc. tends to mean that the only place you see info on 'special elections' is the local television news.

I consider myself an educated, engaged voter but I have never voted in a run-off or special election. Mostly because I didn't know the dates, whether I'd vote at my regular polling place, who was running, what, if any, other issues were on the ballots, etc.

Feingold is right that the current system needs to be changed, but I'm not sure that amending the Constitution and instituting another expensive election is the right answer.

Posted by: WilyArmadilla | January 26, 2009 10:37 AM

These Senate appointments have been the soap operas of national television and have gotten way out of hand I agree with Sen. Feingold that special elections are the way to go!

Posted by: AMeals | January 26, 2009 10:08 AM

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