Burris Will Press To Be Seated in Senate
by Perry Bacon, Jr.
Roland Burris, the man pick by embattled Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich to take Barack Obama's Senate seat, is signaling a defiant tone as the Senate puts up more roadblocks to his appointment.
A few hours after the Senate declined to formally approve the certificate of appointment from the governor's office because the Illinois secretary of state refuses to sign it, Burris said he planned to arrive in Washington Monday afternoon and tell Democratic leaders "I'm here to take my seat."
"I am the junior senator according to every law book in the nation," Burris told reporters Monday afternoon at Chicago's Midway Airport, where he planned to board a flight to Washington.
Burris aides had signaled in the recent days the former Illinois attorney general would take a cautious approach to seeking the appointment, but his comments suggested he would sharply press his case. Senate Democrats and President-elect Barack Obama have opposed Burris taking the seat, arguing any appointment by Blagojevich is tainted because of corruption allegations against the governor that include him allegedly looking to sell the seat to the highest bidder.
Blagojevich's acting chief of staff Clayton Harris personally flew to Washington early Monday to deliver the certificate of appointment, but Nancy Erickson, the secretary of the Senate who was appointed yesterday by Senate Democratic leaders, and a Senate parliamentarian said they would not formally accept the document because Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White had not signed it. Burris has already filed a motion asking the Illinois Supreme Court to compel White to approve the appointment.
Rodell Mollineau, a spokesman for Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said that without that certificate, it was unlikely Burris' appointment could go to the floor to voted on by the full Senate. Even if a court does force White to sign the document, the Senate is likely to object to the Burris' appointment and investigate it through the Senate Rules Committee, blocking Burris from taking the seat.
But Burris is looking to compel the Senate to accept him through public browbeating. His aides now refer to him as "Senator Burris" and he has declared that the scandal involving Blagojevich has nothing to do with him. At a rally of his supporters Sunday night in Chicago, he said "we are hoping and praying that they will not be able to deny what the Lord has ordained."
In Washington, Burris is scheduled to meet with Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Wednesday and press to be seated, but he has not said how he will handle Tuesday's swearing in of new members of the Senate, which Democratic leaders have said will not include him.
Several members of the Congressional Black Caucus, including Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.), have said Burris should get the seat, but the group has not pressed Reid to seat Burris, who would replace Obama as the only African-American member of the Senate.
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