Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Harry Reid and the Dangers of Arrogance 

A day or two after Illinois Governor Blagojevich was arrested, Harry Reid announced that nobody appointed by Blago would be permitted to join the Senate.

Gov. Blagojevich thereupon nominated Roland Burris, former Secretary of State of Illinois, to fill the senate seat vacated by Barack Obama. This put Mr. Reid in the unenviable position of either blocking Mr. Burris' (thereby preventing the only African-American in the Senate from taking his seat) or backing down from his very vehement and absolutist statement regarding Mr. Blagojevich's appointment and embarrassing himself, the Democratic Party and the entire Senate.

Harry Reid has become the poster child for the proposition that the problem with drawing a line in the sand is, if someone crosses it you have to do something, or you'll look like an idiot, a wuss, or both. Watching Mr. Reid over the last two days, my vote is for both.

Seemingly within hours after Mr. Reid's contentious statement, pundits were expressing doubt that the Senate had the constitutional power to determine who would or would not be seated. Everyone agreed that the Senate has the power to dismiss one of its members under Art. I, Sec. 5 of the Constitution, but that same Section's provision that "Each house shall be the judge of the elections, returns, and qualifications of its own members" doesn't seem to apply to a senator who is appointed by the governor of his or her State to fill a vacancy under Art. I, Sec. 3 and Amendment XVII.

Notwithstanding the pundits, Mr. Reid reaffirmed that the Senate had absolute control over who shall be admitted to membership, and refused to seat Mr. Burris when he presented himself yesterday. The grounds for denying Mr. Burris were that his credentials were not in order, because the certification of the Illinois Secretary of State required by Senate rules was not presented. Jesse White, the Illinois SoS, now says his signature is not required under Illinois law and the Illinois Attorney General says that in any event it is merely ceremonial.

Today, it seems that some sort of compromise has been reached regarding Mr. Burris. Mr. Reid is still insisting that Mr. White provide a certificate, but has backed off a significant distance from his adamant position of a few days ago.

From where I sit, it looks like Mr. Reid has been whipped, knows he's been whipped, and is now trying to save face and preserve the respect of his peers, or at least some of it.

Heck of a beginning for a Congressional session in which the Dems hold almost a 2 to 1 majority in both houses and perhaps a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, don'tcha think?

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