Reid, Not Just a Tin Ear

For the last few days as the Blagojevich crisis has moved to the District, I have been nurturing a sense that Reid et al. have handled the situation just about as badly as they could while demonstrating that old tin ear so fundamental to democratic politics and governance. As is his wont, Erwin Chemerinsky offers a clear-headed legal analysis in yesterday’s LA Times. He cites Powell v. McCormack for the proposition that the Senate cannot deny a seat to a duly elected or appointed congressperson except on grounds of constitutional ineligibility. While I am not an expert, it seems to me that the Senate has some standing to refuse a seat if state law governing the election or appointment of a candidate has not been satisfied–which appears to be Reid’s current position. Regardless, the point of tone and precedent that animates Chemerinsky’s analysis is dead on. The threat not to seat any Blagojevich appointee was without legal authority, and destined to be called as a bluff, thereby giving Blagojevich a credibility opportunity while painting Reid and the leadership as a bunch of overreaching bullies. The whole game of deferring a constructive meeting until today so as to set up the crisis at the Senate Chamber door also seems to me the worst sort of posturing, and a distraction that serves nobody’s true interests–least of all the agenda of change. If today’s compromise was the obvious and right result, they should have met over the weekend so as to have it in place for yesterday. Most concerning, however, is the demonstrated regard for the use of power Chemerinsky identifies. Is this the new politics? Seems awfully familiar to me.

A shout out to my colleague Bob Condlin for drawing my attention to Erwin’s editorial.

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