Panel: Will the Senate Seat Roland Burris?

Panel: Will the Senate Seat Roland Burris?

FOX News Special Report With Brit Hume - January 5, 2009


GOV. BILL RICHARDSON, (D-NM) FORMER COMMERCE SECRETARY-DESIGNATE: It was my idea to withdraw. I withdraw because I felt that I didn't want a possible inquiry going on to delay the enormous progress we need to rebuild this economy.

ROLAND BURRIS, (D-IL) U.S. SENATE APPOINTEE: This is all politics and theatre. But I am the junior senator according to every law book in the nation.

SEN. HENRY REID, (D-NV) SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: Roland Burris has not been certified by the state of Illinois. When that takes place, we will, of course, review it.


BAIER: Potential headaches for the incoming Obama administration. First you saw New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, who withdrew his nomination for commerce secretary because of an ongoing probe by the FBI.

Then you saw Roland Burris, the former Illinois attorney general who was appointed to fill the seat left opened by the incoming president, and now there are questions whether he will be seated in the Senate.

And, finally, a new development today--Leon Panetta has been named to be the head of the CIA under the Obama administration. He has to get approved first, but it is raising some eyebrows on Capitol Hill, even among Democrats--potential headaches.

Some analytical observations now from Mort Kondracke, executive editor of "Roll Call," Mara Liasson, national political correspondent of National Public Radio, and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer, FOX News contributors all.

Mort, let's start with Roland Burris. Tomorrow the senators will be sworn in on Capitol Hill. The question is, will Democrats seat Roland Burris, who has been appointed by Illinois governor Blagojevich.

MORT KONDRACKE, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, "ROLL CALL": If they have any brains, they he will.

Harry Reid and Dick Durbin are the keystone cops here. They have talked themselves into a no-win situation.

Roland Burris -- look, there is a Supreme Court case on this, the Adam Clayton Powell case, in which the Supreme Court said that the only reason that you can deny someone a seat is if he is not a citizen, not a resident of the state, and is not of age. Those are the constitutional requirements.

They have no legal leg to stand on here. They made a political statement about Blagojevich, hoping to get Blagojevich out of -- hoping to get Blagojevich out of Springfield, out of the state, so that they could get an appointee to their satisfaction.

And now Burris is here. There is not a signature from the secretary of state, but the secretary of state is required to certify. He doesn't have any choice in the matter.

So what are they going to do? They are going to deny the citizens of Illinois a Senate seat? They are going to deny themselves a Democratic vote for months and months until this is resolved? I mean, it is just stupid, and they ought to just back off and just seat him tomorrow.

BAIER: Mara, Blagojevich has not been indicted, as we know. In fact, the U.S. attorney, Fitzgerald, has now received 90 days from a judge to delay this indictment, potentially.

And you had, this weekend, Senate Majority Leader Reid saying there might be some negotiation. What do you think he meant by that?

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: I think that the scenario Mort just painted might not happen at all. I think that the Senate Democrats would like to find a way to get out of the mess that they have created.

Now, one thing that Harry Reid suggested is he would be happy to seat Burris if Burris was not appointed by Blagojevich. So, maybe if the lieutenant governor became the governor and appointed Burris also, he would seat him that way.

Or, Burris, don't forget, is in court challenging the secretary of state's refusal to sign. He might win that.

I think that there is an interest in getting out of this mess.

BAIER: So, is this big political theater tomorrow?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, it will be interesting to see an African-American blocked from entry into the Senate. That will be a dramatic picture that I don't think Democrats want.

I think what might happen is the Jim Angle solution, where the lieutenant governor today announces in advance that if he ever becomes the governor, he would appoint Burris. And that would give the Democrats an excuse to say one way or the other he will be here, so we might as well preemptively accept him.


Mara, Richardson drops out as come commerce secretary. How big of a problem is this? This probe was known about since August.

LIASSON: This is a very puzzling thing. Obama's team has not made a single mistake. They have really been a very efficient, well-oiled machine on these appointments.

Either Richardson convinced the vetters that this was a smaller problem that it really turned out to be, and the FBI discovered that it was bigger when it started looking into this, or somehow somebody dropped the ball.

I think this is a small headache. It is a black eye for them. But it is a headache averted because he's not going to be the nominee. He's not going to have to go through these confirmation hearings, where these problems are discussed. So I think they nipped that one in the bud.

I think in almost any administration there's kind of one bad appointment that gets through the process, and the real test for a president elect is how fast they pull the plug.

BAIER: Mort, they dropped the ball on the vetting?

KONDRACKE: Well, it looks like. Or there might have been new developments in the case, and there is some indication of that, that after the vetting that more serious charges arose, or more serious implications arose, about Richardson's involvement, and that that scotched the thing.

But it doesn't look as though the vetters did a great job. I mean, this case was running.

BAIER: Finally, Charles, Leon Panetta, who is a former chief of staff for President Bill Clinton, and also a former chairman of the House Budget Committee, now being tapped to potentially head the CIA.

This is the reaction from Dianne Feinstein. "I was not informed about the selection of Leon Panetta to be the CIA director. I know nothing about this other than what I have read. My position has consistently been that I believe the agency is best served by having an intelligence professional in charge at this time."

She is the incoming head Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

KRAUTHAMMER: A strong letter to follow.

Look, this is somewhere between surprising and shocking. Choosing someone with no experience in intelligence to head CIA at a time of two wars, what we saw in India just a few weeks ago, bad guys out there trying to do collect weapons of mass destruction.

The reason this happened is because Obama has caved to his left. The left will not accept anybody who served in any way in the last eight years under the Bush administration because of the enhanced interrogation, the secret prison programs, and the eavesdropping programs.

That's why, for example, Jane Harmon, who is head of the House Intelligence Committee, who would be an excellent CIA director and the first woman, was nixed because she early on had approved of the listening in on terrorists abroad.

So he chose a novice. I think it's a mistake. I think he's going to get a lot of heat in the end. He'll pass because Panetta is known and liked. But you got a rookie as a president, a novice as head of the CIA in a time of war--not a good idea.

LIASSON: It is still surprising why they didn't let Dianne Feinstein know. That's a basic. That's nomination 101. That's very surprising.

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