So much for the Democrats’ triumphant first day of Congress, when they’d be sworn in amid a feeling of joy for their increased numbers. The now conventional-wisdom increased numbers are down by two.
The ongoing Minnesota-based political soap opera featuring Democrat Al Franken accepting his razor-thin declared victory is unfolding amid signs that Republicans will most certainly go to court to challenge the recount results in an effort to try and keep GOP Senator Norm Coleman…GOP Senator Norm Coleman.
But the most prickly political problem is also coupled with the twin prongs of embarrassment and a growing belief by opponents that Senate Democrats (and in the background the new Obama White House) are perhaps fighting a losing legal battle in the case of Roland Burris, appointed to fill Obama’s term by Illinois’ scandal-tinged, big haired, four-letter-word using Governor.
Burris was officially turned away from the Senate today — which means some lawyers will now get a nice, legal bailout as this case speeds its way into court…unless there is some final compromise (such as Burris filling out the two years but vowing not to run — a pledge for politicians that’s usually as easy to keep as a New Year’s resolution to eat no ice cream for 12 months).
The Senate and its Democrats in particular are in a bind. The battle has been thrust into the racial politics barrel, amid charges that the Democrats are in-effect racist for not seating him. The battle seems on legal ground as steady as California soil in Malibu after a monster rain. Yet, a new poll shows that most Americans agree with the Democrats:
A majority of Americans say Roland Burris should be blocked from taking a U.S. Senate seat and Illinois should hold a special election to fill the vacancy he was appointed to fill, according to a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll.
In a spectacle that spilled onto the Capitol steps, Burris was turned away from the Senate Tuesday as the 111th Congress was gaveled into session. His lawyer, Timothy Wright III, said the Illinois politician was considering more negotiations or a court challenge to press his case.
The controversy centers on Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who appointed Burris after federal prosecutors released a criminal complaint that accused the governor of trying to sell the Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama.
The poll found that a whoppingly lopsided number of people feel Burris should be turned away, versus those those who feel he should be seated:
Interest in the dispute is high — six in 10 are following it closely — and support for Burris is scant. By nearly 2-1, 51% to 27%, those surveyed say the Senate should block him from taking his seat. A similar majority, 52%, say Illinois should hold a special election as soon as possible to fill the office.
“That’s not the way the state constitution provides, but it’s the instinctive reaction by people: Let’s do this democratically,” says Gary Jacobson, a political scientist at the University of California at San Diego.
Burris’s argument basically is that what the Governor is alleged to have done had nothing to do with him and that it was a totally legally appointment. Here’s what he said on CBS this morning, hours before being told he couldn’t take the seat:
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Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.