The Burris circus

It remains to be seen whether Roland Burris will ever be seated as a U.S. senator from Illinois. But his efforts to that end have become the main attraction this week in Washington’s ongoing three-ring circus.

Burris was named last week by embattled Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich to replace Barack Obama in the Senate. But Democratic leaders in the Senate have said they won’t seat him.

And he was denied access to the Senate floor Tuesday because his certificate of appointment was not signed by the Illinois secretary of state.

Burris’ attorney said the Senate acted “against the law of the land” in rejecting Burris. But the law of the land begins with the U.S. Constitution, and Article I, Section 5 says: “Each House shall be the Judge of the Elections, Returns and Qualifications of its own Members.” Senate leaders say Burris isn’t qualified because he was appointed by a governor who is under criminal investigation for trying to sell this very same Senate seat.

Burris and his attorney may have a tough time convincing courts that the Constitution doesn’t mean what it says.

Just as Rep. Bobby Rush, a black congressman from Chicago, is having a difficult time painting Burris’ rejection in the Senate as evidence of racism. “I think if Roland Burris hadn’t been an African-American, then he would have been allowed to ... become a senator,” Rush declared.

Oh really. Democratic leaders in the Senate announced their intention to block any appointment by Blagojevich before they knew who that person would be. Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White, who refused to sign Burris’ certificate, is a black man. And even the Congressional Black Caucus isn’t buying the racism charge.

But Rush isn’t the only one engaging in hyperbole. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid proclaimed that Democrats are proceeding cautiously with Burris because they “want to ensure there is not a cloud of doubt over the appointment.” But Democratic insiders told CNN that the real fear of Reid and other party leaders is that Burris may not be able to hold the seat for Democrats in 2010.

The Burris circus was staged with gleeful intent by Blagojevich. But others from Illinois to Washington might as well be selling tickets and hawking peanuts, considering how they have worked to embellish the show.


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