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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