Mere moments ago, the Senate Democratic leadership announced that they expect to seat Roland Burris next week. Burris, impeached, poetry-quoting governor Rod Blagojevich’s appointee to fill Obama's vacant senate seat, has created a political and moral quandary for congressional Democrats and Republicans alike. It’s clear to any rational being that his appointment is highly suspect, born out of a ludicrously corrupt and vulgar situation in his home state. For all anyone knows, Burris bought Obama’s old seat. The last thing that anyone wants is a Senator tainted by scandal, let alone one that rides into the chamber on a sea of it.
The easy solution would seem to be to simply not to seat Burris, but unfortunately, legal obligations will prevent that from happening. Though impeached, Blagojevich is still governor. Accordingly, the State Election Commission is obligated to send his nominee off to Washington, unless they can find something that makes him incapable of fulfilling his duties. They couldn’t, so Burris made his way to D.C., grandstanding and prophesying all the way.
Once Burris arrived on Capitol Hill, the Democratic leadership, apparently caught on their heels by the appointment, barred his entry and evaluated their options. Technically, they could have refused to seat him and hoped that something in the Blagojevich impeachment would preclude him from ever making it into the chamber. But the empty seat means one less crucial vote; if the Democrats hoped to push through anything controversial, they would need as many votes as they could get. Of course, they caved and decided to give Burris the seat.
Where were the Republicans in all of this? Scheming on their own side of the aisle, of course. Even if they did raise a stink and actually succeed in sending Burris back to Illinois, he would certainly be replaced by another Democrat. Any new nominee would lack the stench of scandal and would be more politically viable as a Senator, and that's the last thing the Republicans want. Burris is still a vote for the blue side, but he won't be re-elected. That’s opportunity for Republican gains in Congress, something the desperately need. Look for Burris to be harassed and useless throughout his term.
Roland Burris represents another victory for political pragmatism, a victory which both Republicans and Democrats are complicit. Idealism and morality continue to take a backseat to intrigue and necessity. Of course, the American people continue to be the real winners in these games.
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