Fanning the Flames: The Freedom Project Blog


A Burris in Their Saddle?

By Shawn Healy
I wrote last week about the continued controversy surrounding former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris' appointment to the U.S. senate by since-impeached Governor Rod Blagojevich. Burris' fate should be decided soon, maybe even today, and this post touches upon both the legal underpinnings of this ongoing power struggle, along with the movement to remove the accused governor from office.

According to sources within the Senate, Burris may learn about his fate as early as today. Officials there are considering the authenticity of his appointment without the signature of approval from Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White. It is possible that he will be seated "without prejudice," allowing the body to reexamine his credentials at a later date when the Blagojevich brouhaha dies down.

Illinois Senator Dick Durbin, the Majority Whip, said yesterday that his Democratic colleagues intend to find a resolution to the matter before long, instead of anticipating an appointment from Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn should he be elevated to the governor's mansion.

In a probing editorial yesterday, the Chicago Tribune laid out three scenarios where Democrats in the Senate could continue to contest the legal authenticity of the Burris appointment. This includes dismissing a precedent set in 1969 where a New York Senator was seated on the grounds that he was elected by state voters, the fact that the criminal charges surrounding Blagojevich center on the very senate seat in question, and finally, that the elevation of Burris by the criminally accused governor is nothing more than "lulling," or the concealment of a crime.

Beyond this meandering legalese lies the impeachment of Illinois' 40th governor for the first time in the state's 190-year history. The Illinois House voted 114-1 last Friday in favor of sending impeachment articles in the Senate (Representative Milt Patterson stood as the lone "no" vote). Proceedings on this front are set to begin on or around January 26 as the Senate meets as a judicial body with the Chief Justice of the Illinois Supreme Court presiding, and a two-thirds vote necessary to convict and remove Blagojevich from office.

There is no telling how long the latter process will take to play out, but in an ironic twist, Blagojevich himself will preside over the start of the Senate's session on Wednesday as newly-elected members are seated. Just another day in this sad soap opera otherwise known as Prairie State politics.


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Managing Director

McCormick Freedom Project

Shawn is responsible for overseeing and managing the operations associated with the McCormick Freedom Project. Additionally, he serves as the in house content expert and voice of museum through public speaking and original scholarship. Before joining the Freedom Project, he taught American Government, Economics, American History, and Chicago History at Community High School in West Chicago, IL and Sheboygan North High School in Wisconsin.

Shawn is a doctoral candidate within the Political Science Department at the University of Illinois at Chicago where he received his MA in Political Science. He is a 2001 James Madison Fellow from the State of Wisconsin and holds a bachelor's degree in Political Science, History, and Secondary Education from the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

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About Fanning the Flames and the McCormick Freedom Project

Fanning the Flames is a blog of the McCormick Freedom Project, which was started in 2006 by museum managing director Shawn Healy. The blog highlights the news of the day, in hopes of engaging readers in dialogue about freedom issues. Any views or opinions expressed on this blog represent those of the writers alone and do not represent an official opinion of the McCormick Freedom Project.

Founded in 2005, the McCormick Freedom Project is part of the McCormick Foundation. The Freedom Project’s mission is to enable informed and engaged participation in our democracy by demonstrating the relevance of the First Amendment and the role it plays in the ongoing struggle to define and defend freedom. The museum offers programs and resources for teachers, students, and the general public.

First Amendment journalism initiative

The Freedom Project recently launched a new reporting initiative with professional journalists Tim McNulty and Jamie Loo. The goal is to expand and promote the benefits of lifelong civic engagement among citizens of all ages, through original reporting, commentary and news aggregation on First Amendment and freedom issues. Please visit the McCormick Freedom Project's news Web site, The Post-Exchange at

Dave Anderson
Vice President of Civic Programs
McCormick Foundation

Tim McNulty
Senior Journalist
McCormick Freedom Project

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