Democrats Have No Legal Basis for Not Seating Burris, Hatch Says

By Nicholas Ballasy | January 7, 2009 | 7:02 PM EST

( - Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), former chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told that he does not believe Senate Democrats have any legal basis for seating Roland Burris once he is certified by Illinois.
“So, let’s just be honest about it,” said Hatch. “He was duly appointed by a sitting governor who had the right to do so, and he doesn’t appear to have any impairment or any aspect of his life that you could point to that should stop him from getting the position. They may not like it, but ultimately that’s the way it is.”
When asked if Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and other Senate Democrats could legally deny Burris a Senate seat, Hatch said he does not think they can stop him.

“If somebody is dually appointed to the Senate, I don’t think you can stop them,” said Hatch. “If they had something wrong with them and had done some bad things, yeah, you can stop them. I don’t see any evidence that this appointment is not qualified to be in the United States Senate.”

Hatch said that since Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who appointed Burris, is “innocent until proven guilty” and can legally make the appointment, the Senate should confirm Burris.

“He’s innocent until proven guilty, and he had every right to make that appointment,” said Hatch. “Since he made it, and he abided by the law, it seems to me that Burris should be seated.”

Freshman Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) said Burris should not be confirmed until he is certified by the Illinois secretary of state, Jesse White, as required by regulations in that state.

“He hasn’t been certified by the state of Illinois – by the secretary of state there,” said Begich. “I think there is a question and also the governor is tainted, and I think we have to look at the senator from Illinois to make sure he doesn’t come from a tainted process, and that’s what concerns me.
“Burris may be a very good individual. I’ve seen some of his information, but I think the process has been tainted by a governor who is under a lot of questions right now,” he added.

Begich said there are legal grounds for denying Burris the seat.

“The issue that he’s not been certified by the State of Illinois I think is the pending issue, at least in my mind, to be an eligible candidate or an eligible appointee for the Senate seat and also that the governor is tainted, and so I think we have to start fresh here, and if the lieutenant governor gets elected or moved into that position and decides to appoint him, we’ll deal with it at that point,” said Begich.

Hatch doesn’t see how the Illinois secretary of state could “fail” to certify Burris and predicts that he will ultimately be seated in the Senate.

“I don’t think they’ll get around it,” he said.

Hatch also said he “heard” Democrats may ask Burris to agree not to run in 2010 if he is seated. “I don’t think they have the right to do that,” said Hatch.