Senate politics as usual mars era of ‘change’
by Joseph P. Tartaro
President-elect Barack Obama and his running mate, Vice President-elect Joe Biden, campaigned on a platform promising “change,” but many of his Cabinet appointments and the politics of gubernatorial appointments to fill vacating seats in the US Senate has looked a lot like the same old brand of governance.
Gaining high profile was Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s scandal-tainted efforts to fill Obama’s Senate seat, but there was plenty of the old shenanigans surrounding similar functions in other states.
So flagrant were Blagojevich’s antics in the Prairie State that he ended up being indicted on corruption changes by the US attorney, and the Illinois House later voted to impeach him. However, after first refusing to seat the governor’s final appointee, former Chicago School Superintendent Roland Burris, Senate Democrats finally paved the way for Burris to take Obama’s seat after it is officially vacated by the inauguration.
In Delaware, the seat being vacated by Biden’s swearing in will be filled by a long-time loyal Biden advisor, Ted Kaufman, whose appointment was announced by Gov. Ruth Ann Minner.
Accoerding The Hill, Kaufman is seen as a mere placeholder until 2010 when Beau Biden, the vice president-elect’s son and Delaware’s attorney general, can run. Beau Biden is in Iraq and had said he didn’t want to be appointed to his father’s Senate seat.
By contrast, Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter quietly filled the US Senate seat vacated by Obama’s appointment of Sen. Ken Salazar to serve as his Secretary of the Interior. He appointed Michael Bennet, the former Superintendent of Denver Public Schools.
In New York state, many politicians and the media have helped propel Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of the late President Jack Kennedy and the niece and cousin of other Members of Congress, as their leading candidate for appointment to fill the Senate seat being vacated by Obama’s nomination of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton as his Secretary of State.
Many consider state Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, son of the former governor Mario Cuomo and a Clinton Administration Cabinet member, as her chief rival.
However, Gov. David Paterson has publicly urged everyone to back off.
“The notion that I have to take Caroline is not coming from me,” Paterson told The Buffalo News in an interview in his Capitol office. He said “gossip” has become a “greater force right now than my decision” and suggested the media have become too consumed with just one big-named candidate.
“…To me, there are 10 to 15 good candidates,” said the governor. Indeed, about 15 candidates for the appointment, including several sitting Members of Congress, have been sent lengthy personal questionnaires by Paterson’s staff.
Some suggest that Paterson also must be concerned about his own reelection in 2010. By then, it remains how popular Democrats will be with voters following what will have been two straight years of budget cuts and tax hikes to deal with the state’s fiscal problems.
And semi-finally, Minnesota’s grueling Senate race, already dragging on two months past Election Day, has now moved even further from the votersand into the hands of lawyers.
Republican incumbent Norm Coleman filed a lawsuit on Jan. 6 challenging Democrat Al Franken’s apparent recount victory announced a day earlier by a canvassing board, likely keeping one of Minnesota’s two US Senate seats unoccupied for weeks or even months.
The court action promises to reopen many of the disputes that arose during the recount, and to raise new questions about the conduct of the election and the counting of ballots.
And in New Jersey, Sen. and Gov.-elect Jon Corsine, has named Rep. Bob Menendnez to fill the seat he leaving on Capitol Hill.
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