The twists and turns of a political soap opera

THE TWISTS AND TURNS OF A POLITICAL SOAP OPERA…. As absurd as the Rod Blagojevich scandal has been, there appeared to be a light at the end of the tunnel. The state legislature would impeach the governor, Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn (D) would assume the office, and a legitimate senator would fill the state’s vacancy. Quinn noted that he believed the process would be complete by early-February.

But, no. As we saw yesterday, Roland Burris seems awfully pleased by the prospect of joining the U.S. Senate, and Blagojevich is just tickled by his ability to stick his thumb in the political world’s eye.

Anxious to inject a racial element to the developments, Rep. Bobby Rush (D) of Chicago said yesterday that he does not believe any senator “wants to go on record to deny one African American from being seated in the U.S. Senate.” But senators are going to get some cover from the African-American president — Barack Obama issued a statement siding with his Senate Democrats in their decision to reject Blagojevich appointees:

“Roland Burris is a good man and a fine public servant, but the Senate Democrats made it clear weeks ago that they cannot accept an appointment made by a governor who is accused of selling this very Senate seat. I agree with their decision, and it is extremely disappointing that Governor Blagojevich has chosen to ignore it. I believe the best resolution would be for the Governor to resign his office and allow a lawful and appropriate process of succession to take place. While Governor Blagojevich is entitled to his day in court, the people of Illinois are entitled to a functioning government and major decisions free of taint and controversy.”

Illinois’ Dick Durbin, the #2 Democrat in the Senate, also didn’t seem especially worried about appearances, saying Blagojevich’s effort “will lead nowhere.”

For his part, during an odd MSNBC interview, Burris believes we’ll see “a major outcry from the people of Illinois” if the Senate rejects his appointment. I have no idea what leads Burris to believe this, but I suspect senators aren’t going to care.

And what about Jesse White, the Illinois secretary of state, who said he would refuse to sign Blagojevich paperwork on the appointment? That’s unlikely to matter — the NYT noted, “[A]fter Mr. White’s lawyers scanned the legal precedents on the question, there appeared to be no statutory requirement that Mr. White’s signature be included, his spokesman said, so the move seemed likely to be mostly symbolic.”

Moving forward, there are plenty of questions, but two of the key issues are a) whether the Senate can block Burris’ appointment; and b) whether the Senate should block his appointment. I’ll be tackling both shortly.