Burris, White in Senate Seat Standoff

Attorneys for Roland Burris have filed a motion that would force Secretary of State Jesse White to officially certify Burris' appointment to the U.S. Senate. 

[Read the complaint and motion]

"There is a great and urgent interest of the people of the state of Illinois in being fully represented before the United States Senate," the Burris petition said.  

The filing is an official request to the Illinois Supreme Court to accept jurisdiction over the mandamus action, that is, action which compels a lower court or a government officer to perform mandatory or purely ministerial duties correctly.

The filing says that "no statute...grants the Secretary of State veto power over the Governor's appointments," and that "Any statute that would attempt to grant this power would be unconstitutional."

White earlier in the day made good on his promise to reject any attempt by Gov. Rod Blagojevich to fill President-elect Barack Obama's vacated seat in the U.S. Senate.

Blagojevich, who was arrested earlier this month on federal corruption charges, maintains his innocence.

Burris said he separates Blagojevich's legal problems from his duties as the state's executive.  In fact, Burris said that if he were the Illinois Attorney General now, as he was from 1991 through 1995, he would have taken the same action that current Attorney General Lisa Madigan did when she filed a motion to have the governor removed from office. [Read more about Burris' background]

"Absolutely," Burris said.

Blagojevich named Burris on Tuesday, but leaders in the U.S. Senate have said they won't seat him.  Obama has expressed support for Senate Democrats.

The 17th Amendment to the United States Constitution appears to give the embattled governor the power to appoint Burris, a man who meets all legal requirements for the job, to the Senate.

But University of Chicago law professor Richard Epstein also points to Article 1, Section 5 of the Constitution which seems to give the Senate the power not to seat Burris.

"There's no precedent on this matter, and the ingenuity of the lawyers on both sides of this case will simply show that our profession is worth every cent that we are paid," Epstein said.

Asked if the day's activities meant that a legal battle between him and Senate Democrats was brewing, Burris said he hoped that wasn't the case.

"I would hope they would realize that what has happened here, it's really a major benefit for all concerned," Burris said.  "As long as he is the governor... he's not been removed, he's not been impeached, he's not been declared imcompetent, he is still the governor."

If Burris appears at the U.S. Capitol next week without a document signed by both Blagojevich and White, Senate rules state that he will not be seated.  He would be greeted by the Sergeant at Arms and Doorkeeper, Terry Gainer, the former head of the Illinois State Police, and would be prevented from entering the Senate chamber.

If he gets the signatures, the Senate Committee on Rules and Admistration could refuse to seat him, citing Article 1, Section 5.   Additionally, Sen. Dick Durbin could break tradition by refusing to walk Burris into the chamber.  Blagojevich, however, has Senate floor priveleges and could escort Burris to his desk.

Experts predict Burris' appointment will be stalled for at least three months.  Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn said he believes Blagojevich will be impeached within two months.

If the governor is impeached, Quinn would assume power and could appoint a second senator if the state still doesn't have one.  If Quinn names someone other than Burris, that appointment could also be challenged.

"We are showing the ugly side of politics to the rest of America, and the rest of America begins to wonder if this might be happening in their city or their country," University of Illinois-Chicago political science professor Dick Simpson said.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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