Tuesday, January 06, 2009

The Three Ring Circus That Is The 111th U.S. Senate

It's a show that would make P.T. Barnum proud.

The 111th Congress officially started on Saturday, January 3 and the three ring circus has landed squarely on Capital Hill. Currently, the United States Senate appears to occupy the center ring. As we prepare to engage in one of the hallmarks of our democracy, the orderly transition of power, in an historical year no less, three senate seats remain unfilled.

In ring number one: Minnesota.

The Minnesota seat remains unsettled due to a razor close election that, after a labourious recount, appears to have resolved in favour of Democrat, Al Franken. But, because a lawsuit is pending by the possibly outgoing Senator, Norm Coleman, the Republican Minnesota governor will not certify the election. Fair enough, the lawsuit revolves around making sure that all votes are counted. Not exactly the way you want to start a new Congress, but if the last eight years of the Bush Administration have taught us anything it's that every vote counts. Right, Florida?

In ring number two: Illinois.

The vacant Illinois seat can be summed up as a giant pissing match between Senate leaders and the the indicted Illinois governor, Rod Blagojevich. Mr. Blagojevich is currently under indictment for allegedly trying to sell the seat, but he is reticent to resign his office and the Illinois legislature has been snail snot slow about convening impeachment proceedings. End result, the governor made an appointment in the form of Roland Burris. By all accounts, Mr. Burris has been an honourable public servant and uninvolved in the scandal that Mr. Blagojevich finds himself in. The Senate, however, refuses to seat, Mr. Burris on the grounds that the Illinois Secretary of State has not certified the appointment. The Secretary refuses to do so and thus we have the first Congressional quagmire of the year. The thing is, the Secretary of State doesn't legally have the right to refuse to certify the appointment and Mr. Blagojevich, while clearly ethically challenged, is still the sitting governor. In other words, like it or not, he still legally has the right to make the appointment. So, denying Mr. Burris his seat appears to not only be wrong, but it also appears to be illegal. Seat the man and get about the business of the people.

And in the center ring . . . New York!

As ridiculous as the Minnesota and Illinois disputes are, it's my own state that appears ready to take the prize for Senatorial idiocy. Why? Because Governor David Patterson is apparently incapable of making a decision. When Senator Hillary Clinton was tapped to be Secretary of State in the Obama administration, Paterson announced that he would take his time in making a decision. It appeared to be a prudent approach given the high profile nature of the seat. As we wound into the holiday season, rumours started to spread that Caroline Kennedy, daughter of President Kennedy would be appointed. While moderately controversial, and discussed for about a week, the governor remained relatively mum on the subject. Christmas came and went. So did Hanukkah. And then New Year's Eve. And still there was no appointment. There still isn't. Why? No one appears to know. I don't know what the issue is, but I do know this. The game has started and New York deserves to have full representation. There's no recount issue here, no indictment or scandal of any kind. So let me put it plainly. Governor Paterson, get off your ass and make the call.

Not exactly an auspicious start to the 111th.


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