Democrats Considering Ways to Avert Burris Showdown

Posted January 5, 2009 at 11:43am

Updated: 2:10 p.m.

Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Terrance Gainer said Monday that he does not expect Illinois Senate nominee Roland Burris to make a spectacle when he arrives in the Capitol on Tuesday, even as the Secretary of the Senate rejected his certificate of appointment Monday morning.

“We do not anticipate some type of confrontation,” Gainer told a group of reporters Monday.

But Burris, who was appointed to replace President-elect Barack Obama by embattled Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D), could run into trouble if he attempts to enter the Senate floor Tuesday or attempts to be seated as a U.S. Senator. The Secretary of the Senate, who is responsible for reviewing certificates of election and appointment, rejected Burris’ certification because it did not have the required signature of Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White.

White had refused to sign the paper given that Blagojevich is under investigation for attempting to sell Obama’s Senate seat for political favors. However, at Burris’ urging, an Illinois court has ordered White to sign the appointment papers. He has until Thursday to do so.

Burris maintains that his appointment to the Senate by Blagojevich entitles him to be seated, but Senate Democratic leaders have said they will not install him while Blagojevich remains under investigation.

Once White signs the certification, however, the Secretary of the Senate will likely be compelled to present it to the full Senate, and Burris may seek to be seated in the Senate. At that point, Burris would likely be allowed on the Senate floor, but would not have speaking privileges.

Senate Democratic leaders are considering offering a motion that would send the appointment, and questions about its validity, to the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, sources said.

Such a motion would take precedence over Burris being seated. In the meantime, Burris, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) have scheduled a meeting for Wednesday, where the trio could hash out a deal to Burris to be seated.

However, Reid and Burris’ Wednesday meeting could be postponed, given that Burris has been subpoenaed to appear before an Illinois state House committee that is holding hearings on whether to impeach Blagojevich.

Burris is scheduled to arrive at Baltimore/Washington International Airport at 4:45 p.m. Monday. He is not expected to attempt to enter the Capitol until Tuesday around noon.

Gainer said he is working with Senate Democratic leaders to determine how to greet Burris, whom Gainer worked with in Illinois when he was the state police chief and Burris was Illinois attorney general.

Gainer said he might personally meet Burris at the Senate Appointment’s Desk on the first floor of the Capitol, or Senate leaders may decide to extend an invitation to Burris to enter the building. But Gainer said it was unclear where Burris would go after entering the Capitol. Gainer said he would be in touch with Burris’ staff Tuesday morning to finalize the details, but he noted that he will simply be enforcing what Senate Democratic leaders decide to do.

“It’s situationally dependent on what leadership decides,” Gainer said.