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Reid Hints He Is Open to Discussion of Burris Nomination

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid on Sunday maintained that the appointment of Illinois Democrat Roland Burris to the Senate seat left vacant by the election of President-elect Barack Obama is under a cloud of suspicion, but the Nevada Democrat hinted the door may be open for discussion.

“I’m a trial lawyer. There’s always room to negotiate,” Reid said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

But even with that comment, Reid once again demanded that Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) step down under allegations he tried to sell the Senate seat to the highest bidder.

“Blagojevich is obviously a corrupt person,” Reid said. “There’s a cloud over this appointment, [and] there’s a cloud over the state of Illinois.”

Illinois’ senior Senator, Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D), also had harsh words for his home state during an interview on ABC’s “This Week,” and he echoed Reid’s stance that the Burris appointment will not be approved by the Senate.

“In Illinois, sadly, there’s a question of corruption,” Durbin said during the morning talk-show appearance. “I have [to] make sure in the end the person from Illinois serving with me is appointed properly.”

Burris, a former state attorney general, was appointed last week by Blagojevich to replace Obama, who was the only African-American serving in the Senate. Reid and Durbin dismissed claims that their opposition to Burris, who is African-American, was racially charged.

“We have a proud record in the Land of Lincoln of electing African-American candidates statewide,” Durbin said on “This Week,” citing both Obama and Burris as examples. Reid, Durbin and Burris are scheduled to meet Wednesday to discuss the controversial nomination.

Also appearing on ABC’s “This Week,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) suggested that Illinois hold a special election to choose a successor for the Obama seat.

But looking to the week ahead, where the Burris appointment will likely be overshadowed by debate on a massive economic stimulus package, McConnell called for bipartisan consensus and a deliberate process before approving a plan that by his estimate could reach $1 trillion.

“What I worry about here is the haste in which it might be done,” McConnell told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, noting that Congressional Democrats are gunning for approving a stimulus plan by the time Obama is sworn in as president on Jan. 20.

McConnell called for approving the nine appropriations bills lingering from the previous legislative session, which together cost nearly $400 billion and include expenditures that might overlap with the upcoming economic stimulus package. He also called for a middle-class tax cut and offering money to states as a loan instead of a grant.

Reid also hailed middle-class tax cuts as a way to jolt the country’s flailing economy. Citing his home state of Nevada as the nation’s leader in foreclosures, Reid added that the package must address housing issues.

Reid would not give a date when Congress would have the spending plan ready, but with Obama coming to Capitol Hill on Monday to discuss the package with Congressional leaders just two weeks before he is sworn in, Reid hinted that action will be swift.

“I’m not going to give you a timeline,” Reid said, also refusing to give a price tag. “It’s whatever it takes.”

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