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IL-Senate: A Special Or Not?

The fight over how the next senator from Illinois will be chosen has ramped up over the past 48 hours as Democrats in the state legislature put the idea of a special election on the back burner while Republicans released a poll that shows the state's voters prefer a special to choose President-elect Barack Obama's replacement.

The Illinois state House, convened in special session yesterday, decided by a unanimous vote to create a bipartisan committee to look into the allegations of misconduct surrounding Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) and recommend whether or not he should be impeached.

On the issue of changing state law to allow Obama's replacement to be selected by special election, the House took no action. In an interview with MSNBC this morning, House Speaker Michael Madigan said there were "divisions" within the Democratic caucus with regards to a special election, adding that there were additional concerns about how to fund a special election. (He also wore a very cool hat-scarf combo as the snow came down in Springfield.)

Today during a press conference called to announce Arne Duncan as the nominee for Education Secretary, Obama dodged a question about the method by which his Senate seat should be filled. "I'm going to let the state legislature make a determination in terms of how they want to proceed," Obama said.

Last week, incoming White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said that the Illinois legislature should "consider the issue and put in place a process to select a new senator that will have the trust and confidence of the people of Illinois" -- a statement taken by many as an endorsement of a special election.

Even as Democrats moved further from the idea of a special, state and national Republicans sought to prove that public sentiment favored an election rather than an appointment of the next senator.

In a new poll conducted by John McLaughlin for the Illinois Republican Party, two-thirds of those tested support the idea of the state legislature passing a law to create a special election for Obama's seat while just 26 percent oppose that idea. That support is -- generally -- bipartisan, according to the poll, with 74 percent of Republicans, 65 percent of independents and 64 percent of Democrats back a special election.

Ultimately, the decision on changing state law to accommodate a special election lies in the hands of the Democratic-controlled Illinois legislature. Republicans can complain all they want but if Democrats -- at the state and national level -- determine that they can get Blagojevich out and allow Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn to make the appointment without significant public outcry, that is the path they will almost certainly take.

Politicians and political parties hate risk and, make no mistake, a special election in this climate represents a real risk for Democrats.

By Chris Cillizza  |  December 16, 2008; 1:02 PM ET
Categories:  Senate  
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The piece opens as follows:

It may be a long shot at this point, but the Norm Coleman-Al Franken contest could be decided on the floor of the U.S. Senate itself.

The U.S. Constitution is brief and quite clear on this point, to wit:

"Article I, Section 5. Each House shall be the judge of the elections, returns and qualifications of its own members."

Posted by: bsimon1 | December 17, 2008 9:45 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: bsimon1 | December 17, 2008 9:38 AM | Report abuse

I do not believe it's possible for the Senate to appoint anyone to fill a vacancy. As I understand it, they have a constitutional right to reject nominees for whatever reason and, while doing it, they can suggest a process for filling the vacancy (like a redo of the election). But it will remain a vacancy until such time as it is filled by gubernatorial appointment, special election (which could be a redo), or regular election. Although it's extremely unlikely and I don't expect it to happen any time soon, the possibility exists that a Senate seat could remain vacant until the next regular election.

Posted by: ksteve | December 17, 2008 9:20 AM | Report abuse

Normally, the losing corporations have their representatives attack a president AFTER he is sworn in. This time the republicans are starting the witch hunt early in the cycle.
This is a good sign. It means Obama's administration is putting the fear of democracy back into the wolf pack.
Listen to them howl.

Posted by: seemstome | December 17, 2008 6:27 AM | Report abuse

The Governor has not been actually convicted yet? You can tell everyone in the world that you would consider a bribe, but you are only a criminal if you take one. If you offer a bribe you have committed a crime.

Posted by: star_key2 | December 16, 2008 11:38 PM | Report abuse





If Obama is disqualifed from taking office on account of being born in Keyna or being an INDONESIAN CITIZEN, can Obama take his seat back in the Senate? Sort of will solve two issues at once, huh?





Posted by: 37thandORulesForever | December 16, 2008 10:21 PM | Report abuse





"I have not confirmed that it was accurate"

Obama wants to keep everyone in the dark.

Why are Obama's people investigating themselves???

Is this a joke - sound like Nixon running the investigation of himself. This whole Obama operation is looking more and more like a bad version of Nixon - complete with attempts to silence critics on the internet.





Posted by: 37thandORulesForever | December 16, 2008 10:14 PM | Report abuse

Another really - really bad day for the DEMOCRUDS

Posted by: hclark1 | December 16, 2008 6:04 PM | Report abuse

This should be a simple fix for Illinois Democrats in the State Legislature: pass a law that requires State Senate confirmation of the Governor's selection. Then let Blago appoint. He won't be able to appoint anyone that won't make it through the State Senate, which would eliminate the "taint". That whole solution would take about 72 hours.

Posted by: UrbanCrab | December 16, 2008 5:37 PM | Report abuse

I think the whole process of gubernatorial appointments is outmoded; there's no reason why there shouldn't be elections under these circumstances in all 50 states; there already are in Massachusetts and Alaska.

As to the current case, it seems like the seat will be vacant for a while regardless.

Illinois's financial situation would also be a factor, I suppose.

Posted by: SeanC1 | December 16, 2008 3:39 PM | Report abuse


Prediction: Blago will suspend as governor, continue to draw a paycheck, and wait. Because, as the NYT story this morning suggested, "talk" in and of itself is not a crime, and he will argue that no crime was committed in the discussions about filling the Obama Senate seat.

The Lt. Gov. will then appoint a well-known and respected figure to the seat, and then Blago will cop a plea and resign. This, just a theory, mind you...

The media has yet to answer the real question here: Was Blago's use of the phrase "pay for play," along with his outlandish demands, a signal to his telephone correspondents that he was a reluctant participant in a pay-to-play entrapment scheme that already had snared HIM?

And did those on the other end of the line get message -- thwarting an attempt to bag the real "big fish" coming out of Chicago?

Fitzgerald may be coming to realize there's no strong legal case here; maybe that's why he gave Obama a gift by asking him to withhold on releasing any further information from the transition staff.

But the goal already has been achieved: letting Obama know that other countervailing forces can make for rough going, if he's not careful.

Again, just a theory...


Not as long as government-supported extrajudicial targeting squads are "community stalking" American citizens, making a mockery of the rule of law:



Posted by: scrivener50 | December 16, 2008 3:33 PM | Report abuse


I don't think the US Senate can appoint their own selection. They certainly can refuse to seat any Blago appointee, but I think that seat would then remain vacant until such time as Blago is stripped of (or relinquishes) his appointment power, either by legislation or impeachment, to allow Quinn to choose or until the next election (2010).

Posted by: mnteng | December 16, 2008 3:19 PM | Report abuse

Chuckle. Illinois legislators have had time to consider what might come out about their own dealings. Rod has been their go to man and they don't want any part of this. They will all be called to testify.

It's not clear what the Governor actually did except illustrate to the American people how their government actually works. Legislators are sweating bullets all over the land.

Posted by: websmith1 | December 16, 2008 3:02 PM | Report abuse

Given that this seat is up in '10, it might be better if Quinn or whoever appoints a strictly caretaker senator to finish out the term, as was done in DE, and then let the real politicians battle it out for the seat in '10.

Posted by: novamatt | December 16, 2008 2:56 PM | Report abuse

What's this? Pro choice Republicans?
Even more shocking, the IL legislature not in agreement about how to stamp out corruption! Shocking, simply shocking!

Posted by: bgreen2224 | December 16, 2008 2:33 PM | Report abuse

According to some media reports, the impreachment of Gov. Rod Blagojevich may take months. Perhaps, the Illinois Attorney General, the Illinois Congress, the Illinois Supreme Court or the Federal Government can suspend the governor with out pay pending the outcome of his impeachment proceeding. This procedure is no different than the federal, state and local government procedure when an employee is charged (indicted for a felony crime) and the employee's employer decide to suspend the employee for the efficiency of the government. The same rules should apply to an elected official who is being paid by taxpayers' monies. My suggestion is for those who are in charge of impeaching the governor is to look for a way to sedn the governor home on a "suspended without pay status" -If you accomplish that, your actions would look ver positive by the people of Illinois, America and the world.

Posted by: doctormiguel | December 16, 2008 2:21 PM | Report abuse

If Obama was a Republican he would be so sunk by now. At least he'll have Caroline Kennedy as an ally in the Senate.

Posted by: anthem20042001 | December 16, 2008 2:16 PM | Report abuse

mark_in_austin writes
"Harry Reid and the Senate do not have a voice in the matter, as far as I know."

Mark, I have not yet found the article that led me to write what I wrote, but I wonder whether there are Senate rules for filling a vacancy in the event a state does not provide a representative in a timely fashion?

Posted by: bsimon1 | December 16, 2008 2:01 PM | Report abuse

I read with interest the possibility of the US Senate declaring a seat vacant and appointing their own person to fill it. That, of course because of their majority, would result in a democrat being appointed and all hell breaking lose in the Senate. I still believe the only solution is for waiting out Blagojovitch and having the LT. Governor when he becomes the top man to appoint that lady that had her legs shot off in Iraq. She probably has the least political connections and therefor the least baggage. All others such as Jessie Jackson are compromised.

Posted by: Opa2 | December 16, 2008 1:59 PM | Report abuse

I'm from Chicago. As much I would like to see a Democratic Governor appoint a Demoratic Senator, I believe that now -- under these Blogovian circumstances -- a special election is in order.

It's the only "clean" way out of this mess...

Posted by: AdrickHenry | December 16, 2008 1:42 PM | Report abuse

There's no way that the Democraps who control the process will go along with an election in Illinois. It's not likly, but with an election they could lose, and that's why there won't be an election.

Posted by: armpeg | December 16, 2008 1:40 PM | Report abuse

the answer is clearly chelsea clinton.

Posted by: king_of_zouk | December 16, 2008 1:36 PM | Report abuse

bsimon, I quote the 17th A.

Amendment 17 - Senators Elected by Popular Vote. Ratified 4/8/1913. History

The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, elected by the people thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote. The electors in each State shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the State legislatures.

When vacancies happen in the representation of any State in the Senate, the executive authority of such State shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies: Provided, That the legislature of any State may empower the executive thereof to make temporary appointments until the people fill the vacancies by election as the legislature may direct.

This amendment shall not be so construed as to affect the election or term of any Senator chosen before it becomes valid as part of the Constitution.

Harry Reid and the Senate do not have a voice in the matter, as far as I know.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | December 16, 2008 1:27 PM | Report abuse

Obama has issued a plea to dispose of this matter before the press releases the fact that Blago is a Dem from Osama's home state.

coming next - a fundraising email.

Posted by: king_of_zouk | December 16, 2008 1:27 PM | Report abuse

"Michael Madigan said there was 'divisions'..."?

Or did MM say there "were divisions" and CC said there "was divisions"?

Posted by: mark_in_austin | December 16, 2008 1:24 PM | Report abuse

Isn't it clear the mad Libs will do anything to retain power and line their pockets?

the Osama transparency is clear as MUD. his story changes hourly. I presume the clintons are advisors on this.

Posted by: king_of_zouk | December 16, 2008 1:24 PM | Report abuse

My count of efforts is:
0) Blogo steps down: apparently not happening
1) AG Madigan has asked IL SC to label Blagojovich as unable to perform his job. Seems like a long shot, as he's showing up for work & signing bills.
2) IL Lege rewrites procedure for filling open senate seat; long shot as requires Gov to sign bill, or 60 days to pass w/out signature.
3) IL Lege impeaches Blogo. Probably the fastest way to resolve the issue, but even then, could take weeks before Blogo is out & Quinn is in; Quinn would then make an appointment as the new Gov.
4) US Senate declares the seat vacant & appoints their own selection. This is an obscure possibility that has been raised as a possible outcome in MN as well.

Posted by: bsimon1 | December 16, 2008 1:16 PM | Report abuse

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