Mr. Burris Goes to Washington
By Lonnae O'Neal Parker
Capitol Hill may still buzz with controversy surrounding Roland W. Burris's Senate appointment, but Burris said today that he considers everything settled but the formalities.
"The appointment is legal. I am the junior senator from the state of Illinois," Burris said as he prepared to travel Monday to Washington for a full day of meetings. (With whom? He declined to say.) "The next step in the process is to be sworn in" on Tuesday.
Burris, who calls himself a friend and strong supporter of President-elect Barack Obama said he has not talked to Obama or anyone from his office since he was chosen by embattled Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich to fill Obama's vacated Senate seat.
"The president-elect or anyone else hasn't been able to indicate that the governor has done anything other than legal. He's carried out his constitutional and statutory duties to fill the [Senate] vacancy," Burris said.
"The executive shall appoint," he said, paraphrasing the Illinois statute authorizing Blagojevich's action. "It doesn't have anything to do with whether the executive is under arrest, or accused. There's no condition under the law."
Burris said he had no qualms about accepting the seat and rejects any notion of taint: "I feel great. My whole desire was to be a public servant ever since I was a 16-year-old boy from Centralia, Illinois. That's what I set out to do -- to be a lawyer and state official. To serve the people of Illinois: That's what I want to do, that's what I love to do."
Calling himself the "solution to the problem" of Illinois needing full Senate representation when the 111th Congress is sworn in Tuesday, Burris foresees no problem with anyone trying to bar him from the swearing in.
"I am a U.S. Senator. I will act calmly and, if refused entry, move away from the chamber and take the next step." That step, however, does not include rejecting the appointment. "No way," Burris said.
It may not come to that, though, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid hinted today. Although Reid and other Democrats have vowed to block any Blagojevich appointment from being sworn into the Senate, he eased off that position in an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press."
"I'm an old trial lawyer. There's always room to negotiate," Reid said.
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