Sen. Dianne Feinstein may be putting herself at the center of the Burris appointment debacle.
Feinstein, a senior member of the Judiciary Committee, said that not allowing Burris to be seated could broadly undermine future gubernatorial appointments.
“I can’t imagine the secretary of state countermanding a gubernatorial appointment,” Feinstein said. “The question, really, is one in my view of law. And that is, does the governor have the power to make the appointment? And the answer is yes. Is the governor discredited? And the answer is yes.
“Does that affect his appointment power? And the answer is no until certain things happen.”
She added if Burris isn’t seated “it affects gubernatorial appointments all over the country.”
Feinstein’s break with her party’s leadership is the latest headache for congressional leaders, who blocked Burris Tuesday morning from being sworn in because of the cloud surrounding Rod Blagojevich, the Illinois governor arrested last month on accusations of selling Barack Obama’s Senate seat to the highest bidder.
And her comments mark the second straight day she has broken with her party. Feinstein issued a stern statement Monday questioning Obama’s choice of Leon Panetta to head the CIA, complaining that she was not consulted on choice even though she is the incoming head of the Intelligence Committee.
Burris, the 71-year-old former Illinois state attorney general, is defying party leaders' calls to step aside until Blagojevich is impeached and a new governor can appoint a senator. Burris is suing in state court to force secretary of state Jesse White to sign the papers, a suit most expect he will win.
In the meantime, Congressional Black Caucus members and Feinstein – along with some senior Senate Republicans — are siding with Burris' fight to be seated.
Feinstein, who has communicated her views to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), praised Burris’ credentials, saying “he’s not some kid who has no background. I would be hopeful that this thing is going to be settled.”
She said she has spoken with African-Americans in California who say he is “very well respected.”