Illinois Senator Dick Durbin said in a press conference this afternoon that Roland Burris, beleaguered Governor Rod Blagojevich's nominee to fill Barack Obama's U.S. Senate seat, should not be seated in the U.S. Senate, despite a ruling today from the Illinois Supreme Court that says Secretary of State Jesse White's signature on the appointment paperwork is not necessary (White has refused, and continues to refuse, to sign). Durbin on one hand said that the U.S. Senate rule that the Secretary of State had to sign the appointment applies (and has never been waived) regardless of what Illinois law mandates. But Durbin also said that the issue of Burris' appointment should not be filled until the impending trial of Rod Blagojevich concluded, at which point Lt. Governor Pat Quinn would then have the authority to make this appointment "in a clean, legal way and make his recommendation and his appointment known to the United States Senate.''
Of course, this presupposes that Blago will be removed from office after trial in the state senate, although that seems very likely.
So, what's Durbin up to? Let's ignore for a moment that the issue of Jesse White's signature has nothing to do with Durbin's suggestion that the appointment must wait until after the impeachment, unless what he's trying to say is that he assumes that White would sign off on whomever Quinn would appoint, which would then make it a proper appointment under the Senate Rules (uh, does the U.S. Senate really want to say that all state secretaries of state have a de facto veto power over their governors' power to appoint a senator to a vacant seat?).
But the real question is, is Durbin anticipating that Quinn would 're-appoint' Burris to make it all 'nice and legal' (and perhaps attempt to remove the taint of the Blago appointment on Burris to give him a better chance for election in 2010)? Or, and this seems more likely, that the Dem leadership realizes that Burris is vulnerable to a solid GOP challenger like 10th District Congressman Mark Kirk, and they do not want to risk having Burris be the Dem incumbent, who they would have to defeat in a primary.
We the public, of course, are also meant to ignore that at the outset of this whole fiasco, it was Dick Durbin who was beating the special election drum the loudest, until someone whispered "Mark Kirk" in his ear.
Thus, despite the glad-handing that occurred between Senators Reid and Durbin, and Roland Burris the other day, it seems to me that nothing is certain yet. TA is glued to watching this fascinating session of "As Illinois Politics Turns," and I'm sure you all are, too.
Saturday Morning Update: Lots of print news coverage of the impeachment this morning, of course, and you can easily find more yourself (indeed, you can't avoid it), but one thing I wanted to point out this morning was that the Tribune has not let up on its call for Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn to commit to a special election.
The Tribune points out that the seat belongs to the people of the State of Illinois, not Quinn, Durbin, Reid or any other politicians. And, interestingly, if it turns out that the scheme here is for Quinn to legitimize the Burris pick after Blago is removed from office (as we speculated above as one possible reason behind these political gymnastics), the Trib appears strongly opposed to that. The Trib wants Quinn to start showing some leadership, now. Will he?
ALSO- found this Politico.com analysis of the inter-party gyrations that went on in Washington among Durbin, Reid, and other Dems as Blago's surprise appointment of Burris not only caught them completely off-guard, but then made several flubs as Burris and his supporters managed to turn the issue from Blago to one of race. A good read.