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What's Next For Burris?

(CBS)
CBS News legal analyst Andrew Cohen takes a look at the legal issues surrounding Roland Burris, the Senate appointee by embattled Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich who was rejected by the Senate when he arrived at the Capitol to be seated today.

The reason why there seems to be no political clarity on the issue of whether Illinois' Roland Burris may be seated by the United States Senate is that there is very little legal clarity on the issue as well.

Each side in the dispute can point to the law in support of its position and when that happens you get the sort of chaos and confusion and gridlock that seems to be happening here and now.

There are cross arguments and conflicting precedents topped off by a dichotomy between state rules and the federal Constitution. There is one Supreme Court case that is relevant but that has to do with the "qualifications" of a person to serve in the Congress.

(CBS)
In this case, no one disputes that Burris has the qualifications to serve in the U.S. Senate. The question is whether the person who appointed him, in this case Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, is so politically tainted so as to have corrupted the process by which Burris was selected and would serve. And there is no Supreme Court case directly on that point.

So it's process — the argument offered by Senate Democrats — versus substance — the argument offered by Burris and Blagojevich. And unless there is some sort of political compromise — a good bet, I think, given Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid's comments Sunday — the dispute will have to be resolved by the courts. Federal judges get the big bucks to resolve precisely these sorts of thorny conflicts.

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