Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Crisis in the Senate -- Deliberative Disorder

Inauguration Day is now less than two weeks away (YIP-EE!), but Tuesday marked the opening of the 111th Congress, an inauguration day of sorts for the newest members of the U.S. House and Senate. After the swearing-in ceremonies and the election of Rep. Nancy Pelosi to a second term as House speaker, they rolled up their sleeves and got right down to business. Yeah, right.

Instead of readying an economic stimulus plan for President Obama to sign right after his own swearing-in, most of the day's activities, it seemed, were centered around the man who would replace Obama in the Senate, Roland Burris. Burris, who is suffering from a taint-by-association after being selected for the position by Governor Rob "#%&*^$*" Blogojevich, showed up to claim what was rightfully his, a seat in the U.S. Senate. He was turned away because he lacked the "proper credentials," -- i.e., Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White has refused to sign off on the appointment.

Senate Democrats at first were having no part of Roland Burris, but are now softening. In fact, Burris gained the support of a key Democrat, Dianne Feinstein, Tuesday. Burris has filed a motion with the Illinois Supreme Court to compel White to sign off on his appointment, and if no evidence surfaces that he was involved in Blogojevich's schemes, should be able to take his seat in the Senate shortly. The Senate Democrats who are standing in Burris's way are setting a bad precedent where a governor or secretary of state with an axe to grind can simply refuse to sign off on an election or appointment if the mood strikes.

A similar situation is happening in Minnesota where Democrat Al Franken has been certified the winner of the Senate seat there. Out of almost three million votes cast, Franken "won" by 225, like Florida in 2000, too close to call, within the margin of error of the voting machines used. The race, like Florida in 2000, is being decided by voters too ignorant to fill out a ballot properly. "Overvotes" and "undervotes," terms I never wanted to hear again, are back in the news. Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, a Republican, has not signed off on the election results yet and Franken's challenger, Norm Coleman, rather than bow out gracefully like he urged Franken to do on Election Day, is taking it to the courts. It could be months before Minnesota has a junior senator. And if Coleman fails in his efforts and Pawlenty doesn't like it and refuses to sign off, what then? Will Franken have the "proper credentials" to be seated?

Jon Stewart had a different, funnier view of the whole mess on the Daily Show...

Oh, and that economic stimulus package? Senate Democrats are now saying it won't be ready until February. Which means don't look for it until March or April.

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