Burris Denied Senate Entry

Posted January 6, 2009 at 11:08am

Former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris (D) declined to answer reporters’ questions after being prevented by Senate officials from participating in this afternoon’s swearing-in ceremony on the Senate floor and taking his place as President-elect Barack Obama’s successor.

Burris arrived in the Senate as scheduled at 10:30 a.m. After a brief meeting in the Secretary of the Senate’s office, the Illinois Democrat crossed the street to the park outside of the Russell Senate Office Building for a press conference, where he proceeded to make a brief statement and leave without taking questions from the mob of Capitol Hill reporters television news cameras following his every step.

“I am not seeking to have any type of confrontation,” Burris said, in offering his response to being turned away at the door a little over an hour before the 111th Congress is set to be sworn in.

Timothy Wright, Burris’ attorney, called the Senate actions completely illegal, and he promised legal action after various options are considered, including filing suit in federal district court. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin — Illinois’ senior Senator — are refusing to install Burris, whom embattled Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) named last month. Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White (D) has declined to certify the appointment.

“Our credentials were rejected by the Secretary of the Senate,” Wright said. “We were not allowed to proceed to the floor for the purposes of taking oath, all of which we think was improperly done and it is against the law of this land.”

Originally, Reid and Durbin had said they would not seat any individual appointed by Blagojevich, who was arrested for allegedly peddling the Senate seat to the highest bidder. Senate Democratic leaders have since softened their tone, choosing to hang their refusal to install Burris on White’s refusal to certify Blagojevich’s appointment.

Meanwhile, some Members of the Congressional Black Caucus are less than pleased with the Senate Democratic leadership’s actions.

Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) maintains Burris should be seated in order to ensure African-American representation in the Senate, and he is lobbying his CBC colleagues to pressure Senate Democrats to accept the appointment.

“I’ve talked to a number of them, [and] a number of them have taken the same position I have, that Roland Burris should be seated,” Rush said Tuesday, adding that the CBC is scheduled to discuss the issue on Wednesday, at the group’s first meeting of the 111th Congress.

Burris is scheduled to meet with Reid and Durbin on Wednesday, in what Durbin has described as a courtesy to his friend of more than 30 years.

Jessica Brady contributed to this report.