Reid Is Backing Down As Fast As He Can


The Washington Post and The Boston Globe are both reporting that the Senate's Democratic leaders, after insisting that no one appointed by Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich would be allowed to replace Barack Obama, are getting ready to let Roland Burris take his seat after all. Although Burris was not seated yesterday, ostensibly because his appointment papers did not bear the signature of Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid met with him today and signaled that he will eventually be allowed to serve. The two prerequisites seem to be 1) a ruling by the Illinois Supreme Court on whether White's signature is necessary and, if so, whether he may legally withhold it and 2) Burris' testimony to the state legislature (which is working on the governor's impeachment) about the circumstances of his appointment. Burris is scheduled to testify tomorrow. "Once that's done, we will be in a different position," said Reid, who called Burris "very engaging" and "very nice."

White refused to sign Burris' credentials because he did not think a governor facing corruption charges should appoint Obama's successor, especially since Blagojevich is accused of trying (or at least hopng) to get something of value in exchange for that appointment. But White does not seem to have any legal grounds for withholding his signature, and he now says it doesn't matter anyway, telling WGN Radio "they could have seated him without my signature," which he called purely "ceremonial." He confidently predicted that Burris would be seated. Unless Burris testifies tomorrow that he bribed Blagojevich to choose him (an allegation no one has made), it sounds like he could be seated in a matter of days.

That's the right decision, since it's the one required by law. But by announcing that Burris would be barred from the Senate as a matter of principle and quickly giving in, Reid and his allies look like the spineless, shifty hacks they are. By trying to avoid the embarrassment of serving with a man appointed by a fellow Democrat accused of corruption, they have only magnified their humiliation.

On Monday I noted that Reid was getting ready to give in. Last week I said Reid never should have tried to keep Burris out. In a recent column, Steve Chapman concurred.