Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A little political news...

****President Bush continues to surprise me this month. In a little bit of a Christmas present, it seems that Bush has signed a piece of legislation that actually helps gay and lesbian couples. I know, I'm as confused as you are. There must be a catch...

The Worker, Retireee, and Employer Recovery Act of 2008 makes it mandatory for businesses to roll over retirement benefits to a same sex partner should an employee die. Married heterosexual couples already enjoy this right (and thus avoid tax penalties), but the right is now being extended to same-sex couples. I'm glad to see Bush is joining the civilized world and at least helping us gain just a little more of the equality cookie. Better late than never!

**** Blago is making a Senate appointment- Despite the conventional wisdom of... well everyone, the embattled Illinois Governor is going to go ahead and apoint Obama's successor to the U.S. Senate. Word is he's going to appoint former state Attorney General Roland Burris to the seat. Blago and Burris are former rivals, yet Burris seems to be a safe choice and relatively uncontroversial. Also of note: Burris will be the 4th African American Senator in the body's history, and the third from Illinois. You read it here first! (hopefully)

UPDATE: The Democratic Caucus in the U.S. Senate, via Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and others are now saying that they will NOT seat Blago's pick of Burris. They issued the following statement outlining that while they respect Burris, anyone appointed by Blago is not acceptable:

"It is truly regrettable that despite requests from all 50 Democratic Senators and public officials throughout Illinois, Gov. Blagojevich would take the imprudent step of appointing someone to the United States Senate who would serve under a shadow and be plagued by questions of impropriety. We say this without prejudice toward Roland Burris's ability, and we respect his years of public service. But this is not about Mr. Burris; it is about the integrity of a governor accused of attempting to sell this United States Senate seat. Under these circumstances, anyone appointed by Gov. Blagojevich cannot be an effective representative of the people of Illinois and, as we have said, will not be seated by the Democratic Caucus.

"Next week we will start one of the most important debates of the year - outlining an economic recovery plan to create jobs and invest in America. And in the coming weeks, we will be working to protect homeowners and consumers, make America more energy independent, strengthen our national security, and improve health care and educational opportunities. There is much work to do and a lot at stake. It is thus critical that Illinois and every other state have two seated Senators without delay.

"We again urge Gov. Blagojevich to not make this appointment. It is unfair to Mr. Burris, it is unfair to the people of Illinois and it will ultimately not stand. The governor must put the interests of the people of Illinois and all Americans first by stepping aside now and letting his successor appoint someone who we will seat."

There is some little precedent for individuals to not be seated in the Senate when there are questions about the propriety of the election that that individual won. Constitutionall, each house of Congress has the right to check the qualifications and election of all it's members. However, in the 1960s the House of Representatives refused to seat incumbent Adam Clatyon Powell due to charges of corruption. The case went to the Supreme Court and in an 8-1 decision the Court held that the House had no right to exclude Powell. The Court said that the House could only exclude members when they don't meet the basic qualifications or if they were not properly elected. Since Burris meets the age, citizenship, and residency requirements of Illinois and Blago as Governor has the legal ability to appoint anyone, the question is: Does the Senate even have the option to refuse to seat Burris?? Let me know your thoughts

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