Burris Confident About Getting Seat

Posted January 7, 2009 at 2:02pm

Democrat Roland Burris, who on Tuesday was barred by Senate leadership from claiming President-elect Barack Obama’s vacated Senate seat, expressed confidence Wednesday afternoon that he ultimately will be installed in the post.

Burris’ appointment has run into controversy as Democratic lawmakers questioned the ability of embattled Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) to designate him as the state’s junior Senator. The former state attorney general met earlier in the day with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), who until recently stood firm against his appointment.

Reid and Durbin have since retrenched their position, however, signaling that Burris may be eligible after he has gone through the appropriate procedural hurdles, including obtaining the signature of Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White and testifying before Blagojevich’s impeachment committee. The matter also is likely to go before the Senate Rules and Administration Committee as well as the full Senate for review.

“I’m very pleased this afternoon. I’m happy. My whole interest in this experience has been to be prepared, Roland, to represent my great state,” Burris said at a press conference at the Hyatt Regency. “That is my love, that is my desire and, very shortly, I will have the opportunity to do that as the junior Senator from the fifth-largest state in this great country of ours.”

“Isn’t that great?” he added.

Asked about Reid and Durbin’s seeming change of heart on seating him, Burris was careful to note that they had made no firm decisions.

“I don’t know what pressure they’re under, but they have to keep the integrity of the Senate, and they did not want to rush into anything and make a decision where they have to then be trying to reverse that,” he said.

Burris also maintained that he is free from any involvement in Blagojevich’s allegedly having sought bribes from those interested in the open Senate seat.

“There was certainly no pay to play involved, because I don’t have no money,” Burris said, rousing laughter from the audience.

Burris questioned the source of speculation about a rumored deal in which he would be seated in exchange for a promise not to run to retain the seat in 2010, saying he had made “no commitment at this point” on a possible re-election.

Burris also continued to win support from the halls of the Capitol, including the unanimous backing of his would-be colleagues in the Congressional Black Caucus, who voted to support seating him swiftly. Exiting the group’s huddle, Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) indicated the CBC planned to make a case for Burris on constitutional grounds. Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.) said the caucus plans to send Senate Democratic leadership a letter today outlining its position.

“It’s the right thing to do, and it should be done very quickly,” Towns said. “He should be at the head of the class.”

Tory Newmyer contributed to this report.