Fanning the Flames: The Freedom Project Blog


Boiling Burris

By Shawn Healy
The braggadocio over former Governor Rod Blagojevich's appointment of Senator Roland Burris to fill President Obama's since vacated seat took another tantalizing turn over the weekend when the Chicago Sun Times reported on the existence of an affidavit Burris filed on February 4.

The junior Illinois senator sought to expound upon his testimony before the House Impeachment Committee in January, specifically his communications with members of Blagojevich's inner circle prior to his elevation. In a response to a question forwarded by State Representative Jim Durkin, Burris admitted to speaking with only fundraiser Lon Monk about the potential vacancy. The affidavit reveals four additional contacts with Blagojevich staffers and supporters, including three separate phone conversations with the former governor's brother Rob.

The Sun Times' revelation was news to even most Springfield insiders as the Chairperson of the House Impeachment Committee, Representative Barbara Flynn Currie, reportedly overlooked it, treating it as a routine addition to the already existing paper trail associated with the case.

In the intervening three days, Burris has seemingly come unglued as pressure from the media, House Republicans, and even members of his own party have reached a boiling point. At a dinner in Peoria last evening, Burris admitted to promising to raise money for Blagojevich in the same conversations that he lobbied for the Senate appointment. This seemingly contradicts his previous public statements on the matter, including his testimony under oath before the Illinois House Impeachment Committee.

To say that the road ahead for Burris is rocky would be an enormous understatement. The obstacles, listed below, appear in no particular order.

1. Illinois House Speaker has forwarded relevant documents related to the impeachment trial to Sangamon County State's Attorney for an investigation that could lead to criminal charges of perjury.

2. The U.S. Senate, and Majority Leader Harry Reid specifically, required that Burris come clean before the Illinois House Impeachment Committee as a condition of his eventual seating. Given the inconsistencies that have emerged in this process, his credibility with his colleagues is significantly undermined. They may be pushed to call for an investigation of their own, and Article I, Section 5, Clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution allows the Senate to "...punish its own members for disorderly behavior, and, with the concurrence of two-thirds, expel a member."

3. Burris' reelection prospects were in question from the day he assumed his Senate seat, but it is difficult to imagine him even winning his party's nomination next year. Interesting enough, potential challenger and current Illinois Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias is currently on a Mediterranean trip with the senior senator from Illinois, Majority Whip Dick Durbin. On the Republican side of the aisle, Congressman Mark Kirk has expressed interest in the seat and would offer formidable opposition to whoever emerges as the Democratic candidate.

4. Given the precarious predicament that Burris has placed himself in, Republican calls to resign may soon be echoed by those in his own party to stave off further embarrassment.

5. Should Burris vacate his seat in one fashion or another, state law as it's currently written would allow Governor Pat Quinn to name an interim replacement, but...

6. House Minority Leader Tom Cross has submitted legislation once more to remove this power from the governor's hands and require a special election to fill senate vacancies moving forward.

7. Finally, there is action on the federal level to amend the Constitution and require special elections in the case of any senate vacancies. The Seventeenth Amendment, which mandated the direct election of senators rather than their appointment by state legislatures, allows states to empower governors to make temporary appointments until a special election is called. The amendment process is a lengthy one, as it requires two-thirds approval of both houses of Congress, followed by the approval of three-fourths of all states either by their legislatures or special conventions called for this purpose.


Post a Comment

<< Home


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.

Subscribe to
Posts [Atom]

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

Powered by Blogger