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U.S. Senate
Quick Hit
by Adam Doster
Wed Aug 4, 2010

Seniority And The Senate Special Election

If you think this fall's U.S. Senate special election is worthless, think again. Although it will be held on the same day and will have identical ballots to the scheduled general election, whichever candidate wins could gain a leg up on his eventual freshmen colleagues. The Tribune's Eric Zorn explains why:

“Because he will technically be sworn in during the current Congress (the 111th Congress) and the rest of those elected in November wont be sworn in until January (the 112th Congress) he would be the first incoming senator to get committee assignments,” said Joe Shoemaker, spokesman for Ill. Sen. Dick Durbin.

And because he’ll have the most seniority, “he’ll be the first of those senators to move up into sub-committee chairmanship slots and be in a position to have greater impact on the process earlier in his term.”

Quick Hit
by Adam Doster
Wed Jul 28, 2010

Giannoulias Makes Filibuster Reform A Priority

On separate occasions earlier this year, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias informed voters that he supported changing the rules of the U.S. Senate to rein in the ever-increasing use of the filibuster. "The process has become a complete mess," he said at a Chicago event in May.  Giannoulias got more specific in a DailyKos entry yesterday, coming out in favor of Sen. Tom Udall's (D-NM) "constitutional option" proposal. Here's a video from the campaign in which the candidate explains why the anti-majoritarian requirement needs fixing:

While momentum for filibuster reform is growing in Washington, a handful of incumbent Democrats told The Hill today they had no interest in lowering the 60-vote bar necessary to end debate on legislation. (OpenLeft's updated whip count is here.) That means a Giannoulias victory in November could be crucial if a bloc of senators attempt to modify Senate procedure at the beginning of the next Congress in January.

Quick Hit
by Adam Doster
Tue Jul 27, 2010

Understanding The Senate Special Election

Confused about the U.S. Senate "special election" a judge just ordered Illinois to hold this November? Here are the pared down basics:

Way back in February 2009, former Ald. Marty Oberman and labor lawyer Tom Geoghegan filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking a special election for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama. (We ran through the argument here.) The three-judge panel on the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals sided with Oberman and crew in June and then upheld that ruling in July, claiming that a special election was necessary as required by the 17th amendment.

Now, the court is trying to develop a feasible plan to hold the election. It will formally announce its ruling on Thursday, but some details are trickling out. Illinoisans will likely vote for U.S. senator twice on November 3. The first "race" will fill the remaining few weeks of Roland Burris' controversial term while the second will be for the full six-year term for which Alexi Giannoulias and Mark Kirk are running. Illinois' state central committees will likely get to pick who’s on the ballot for the "special" election. (That's the same body that chose Scott Lee Cohen's replacement.) Odds are, they will keep their own nominees on the ballot. And while the election may be meaningless and politically damaging to Democrats in the short-term, it does provide precedent to rid Illinois of its anti-democratic replacement process if a future vacancy arises.