Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was forced to back away from his position that the Senate had the authority not to seat Illinois Senator-designate Roland Burris. Mr. Reid was outsmarted and outwitted by embattled Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich with his selection of Mr. Burris.
Recall that it was Mr. Reid who led his colleagues to proclaim that Mr. Burris would not be seated under any circumstances. And it was Mr. Reid, according to Mr. Blagojevich and the Chicago Sun-Times, who felt that no black candidate should be appointed because no black could win a statewide election. This is despite the fact that President-elect Barack Obama won statewide in 2004 and nationwide in 2008. So Mr. Blagojevich picked a black man who has already been elected statewide -- four times.
Mr. Reid tried to save face with his public proclamations that he and Mr. Burris are working out a deal in which Mr. Burris, if seated, would not run in the Senate race in 2010. But the Burris camp told us last night that "Burris is making no deals." Mr. Burris testified on his appointment before the Illinois General Assembly yesterday and will work to get Secretary of State Jesse White to sign his certification. Mr. Burris' appointment appears legal, and therefore, according to the Supreme Court's 1969 decision in Powell et al. v. McCormack, Speaker of the House of Representatives, et al, which said it is the state and the voters that have the ultimate legal authority over who is seated in Congress, not Congress itself. And once seated, a member cannot be arbitrarily removed.
Mr. Burris had a solid legal claim against Mr. Reid and the Senate from the moment he was barred entry - in the pouring Washington rain. Once Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White made it clear his signature on Mr. Burris' appointment certificate was a formality and not a legal barrier - yet another claim by Mr. Reid - it was clear that Mr. Reid had lost the battle. Apparently, only Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, had the intelligence to understand the law in her call for Mr. Burris to be seated. And to make image matters worse it was the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch that filed suit to have Mr. Burris seated, not the so-called party of civil rights.
The score card reads: 1) Mr. Reid didn't understand the law. 2) Mr. Reid didn't understand the political ramifications. 3) Mr. Reid didn't understand the perception problem. This is the man that Democrats have chosen to lead their legislative policy and sell the party's public policy message to the public.