OK, OK, he didn’t explicitly say that, but that’s what frightens Harry Reid about a special election for Barack Obama’s open Senate seat. In a letter to the beleaguered governor of Illinois, Reid urged Rod Blagojevich to resign immediately, and not because Blagojevich has been exposed as a crook, or because Illinois deserves honest government. As Chris Cillizza reports, Reid wants Blagojevich out of the way now so the Illinois legislature won’t have the chance to call a special election that Democrats could lose:
The momentum for a special election to replace President-elect Barack Obama ran into a major hurdle late this afternoon in the form of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) who penned a letter today to scandal-tarred Gov. Rod Blagojevich making clear he would prefer the incumbent step aside and let Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn make the appointment.
“It is within the authority of the Illinois legislature to remove your power to make this appointment by providing for a special election,” wrote Reid in a letter obtained by The Fix. “But a decision by you to resign or to step aside under Article V of the Illinois Constitution would be the most expeditious way for a new Senator to be chosen and seated in a manner that would earn the confidence of the people of Illinois and all Americans.”
Reid adds that his preference for an appointment by Blagojevich’s successor rather than a special election is driven by his belief that it is “imperative” that a new senator from Illinois be seated as soon as possible. An appointment by Quinn, a Democrat, also avoids the possibility that Democrats could lose the seat in a shortened special election campaign.
The timeline being floated in Illinois political circles would be for party primaries to take place on Feb. 24 with a general election on April 7 — a schedule that would leave the Senate seat vacant for at least three months.
Well, isn’t that classy? Illinois is in the middle of one of the worst political crises at the state level in American history, and Reid wants one of the existing establishment to hand-pick its Senator. I’m sure Illinois residents really trust their government now. Nice to see Reid’s priorities are in the right order! At least Dick Durbin got that much right when he called for a special election instead of an appointment.
On the plus side, Reid also tells Blagojevich not to even think about making the appointment himself. Anyone the disgraced governor sends to Capitol Hill had better have a round-trip ticket back to Springfield, Reid warns. He’ll use the Constitutional power of the Senate to deny that appointee membership, and it’s hard to find anyone, Democrat or Republican, who would buck Reid on that threat.
Reid knows that an election in Illinois will put the seat at risk of Republican takeover after the Blagojevich scandal plays all the way out. Illinois needs to clean house, and that’s the first opportunity they will get. You can bet that Reid wants to avoid that as much as any Democrat, but this tone-deaf plea to a corruptocrat for a back-room deal smells bad enough to stink up the entire 111th Congress and give everyone else the same idea for the 2010 midterms.