ILLINOIS SUPREME COURT THROWS A CURVEBALL…. Well, this is going to make things a little messier.

The Senate Democrats appear to be readying themselves to back off their refusal to seat Roland Burris, but they’re going to have to find a new excuse: The Illinois Supreme Court just refused to force the Secretary of State to certify Burris’s appointment.

The AP report added that the state court concluded that “nothing in state law requires” the Secretary of State to sign the appointment. Apparently, as far as the jurists were concerned, the only thing Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White was legally required to do was register the governor’s selection, and he did that. That’s not, however, a certification.

This is not what was supposed to happen. In fact, the way forward appeared clear. The U.S. Senate blocked Roland Burris’ appointment because it had not been certified by the Illinois Secretary of State. No credentials = no seat.

But Harry Reid offered a roadmap to resolution: if Burris answered questions from the state impeachment panel, and the state Supreme Court ordered Illinois Secretary of State to certify the results, the Senate would honor the process and seat Burris. Reid and the Senate Democratic leadership had effectively punted the controversy to state officials.

Today’s ruling from the Illinois Supreme Court punts it right back.

Reid had said that the Senate has never accepted a member whose appointment had not been certified, and he’s not inclined to break new ground. At this point, then, either White will reverse course and decide to sign off on Burris’ appointment, Reid will reverse course and agree to seat Burris without certification, Burris will reverse course and stop pursuing the appointment, or this fiasco will remain unresolved for quite a while longer.

As to the substance of the issue here, I have to admit, this sounds a little bizarre. Secretaries of State should be empowered to have an effective veto power over a governor’s appointment authority?

Update: Wait, I read a portion of this incorrectly. The state Supreme Court isn’t forcing White to certify the appointment, but the court said Burris doesn’t need White’s signature to be seated. So, no veto power for the Secretary of State, but no certification for Burris.

The competing scenarios I presented, however, remain the same: either White changes his mind, Reid changes his mind, Burris changes his mind, or this remains unresolved for a while.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.