Blagojevich Appoints Obama's Senate Successor Embattled Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich on Tuesday appointed a successor to fill the Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama. The move set off an avalanche of criticism from members of both political parties and set the stage for more political drama.
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Blagojevich Appoints Obama's Senate Successor

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Blagojevich Appoints Obama's Senate Successor

Blagojevich Appoints Obama's Senate Successor

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

It's Morning Edition from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Steve Inskeep. Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich may be facing allegations that he tried to sell a Senate seat, but that did not keep him from appointing a successor to fill the seat vacated by Barack Obama. Here he is on the front page of the Chicago Tribune pictured standing next to his choice. Illinois law makers were already making to impeach the governor, and now politicians in Illinois and Washington are looking at ways to block the governor's appointment. We have more this morning from Ben Calhoun of Chicago Public Radio.

BEN CALHOUN: President-elect Barack Obama, Senate Majority Leader,Harry Reid, nearly every state-wide official in Illinois all said: Because of the scandal Blagojevich should not appoint any one to Obama's senate seat. For a while, it didn't seem like Blagojevich would. He even supported legislation that would have taken the decision away from him. Then yesterday with little warning, Blagojevich stood in front of wall of T.V. cameras, and he argued that because law makers had not passed the bill setting a special election to fill the seat, he had no choice. He defiantly spun a 180 degrees appointing former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris.

Governor ROD BLAGOJEVICH (Democrat, Chicago): The law requires that the governor make an appointment of a United States Senator. If I don't make this appointment, then the people of Illinois will be deprived of their appropriate voice and vote in the United States Senate.

CALHOUN: Blagojevich faces federal corruption charges for influence peddling - including allegations he tried to sell the vacant senate seat. The governor has maintained his innocence and ignored calls for his resignation. Yesterday, Blagojevich and his appointee Roland Burris both did anything they could to separate the tangle around the governor from the appointment.

Mr. ROLAND BURRIS (Former Attorney General, Illinois): I have no relationship with that situation. I'm accepting an appointment by the governor to go to the United States Senate. That's - that's it.

CALHOUN: On the national stage Burris is relatively obscure, but in Illinois he's been a fixture for a long time. Becoming the first African-American elected to state-wide office, when he ran for comptroller in the '70s, and serving as attorney general in the '90s. After that Burris ran failed campaigns for governor and Chicago mayor.

Mr. BURRIS: I'm honored that I have been appointed, and we will deal with the next step in the process.

CALHOUN: Blagojevich's appointment however, drew a flood of criticism from politicians in both parties on the state and national level.

Lieutenant Governor PAT QUINN (Democrat, Illinois): Roland Burris has been a friend of mine for 36 years.

CALHOUN: Like a lot Illinois Democrat, Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn praised Burris but criticized Blagojevich for making the appointment.

Lieutenant Governor QUINN: We believe in clean government, and Rod Blagojevich has unclean hands, and he should not be able to make an appointment to any office whatsoever.

CALHOUN: Republicans also criticize the appointment and renewed calls for a special election to fill the vacancy. President-elect Obama issued a statement calling Burris a good man, and a fine public servant, but said the senate quote, "cannot accept an appointment made by a governor, who is accused of selling this very senate seat." As they have before, Senate Democrats and the Illinois secretary of state said they would do what they could to reject Blagojevich's appointment. But all the mounting opposition raised questions about what opponents could legally do? Robert Bennett is a constitutional law expert at North Western University Law School. He says: The secretary of state doesn't have much leverage to block the appointment, and senators can only reject Blagojevich's appointment on the grounds of age, residency, and citizenship.

Mr. ROBER BENNETT (Northwestern University School of Law): So, the Supreme Court precedence indicate that he's entitled to be seated, and that the senate hasn't got any grounds for refusing to seat him.

CALHOUN: That's not to rule out the possibility of procedural delays that could hold up Burris' appointment or court battles that could slow things down as well. Both of which could be long and complicated. For NPR News, I'm Ben Calhoun in Chicago.

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