Leaders Dispute Reports of Seating Burris

Posted January 7, 2009 at 9:53am

Updated: 11:26 a.m.

Despite news reports to the contrary, Senate Democratic leaders on Wednesday assured that Democrat Roland Burris would not be immediately seated as the next U.S. Senator from Illinois.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) were meeting behind closed doors with Burris to discuss the former state attorney general’s appointment to the Senate seat by embattled Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D). Burris was tapped by Blagojevich to succeed President-elect Barack Obama in the chamber, and he has been pressing Democratic leaders to accept his appointment. So far, however, Reid has refused, saying he cannot seat Burris without the proper certification from Illinois. Blagojevich is under a cloud of corruption for allegedly trying to sell Obama’s seat to the highest bidder.

Entering Wednesday’s meeting with Burris, Reid said: “We are happy to have this talk with Mr. Burris. We are going to have a productive discussion.”

While Senate Democratic leaders remained defiant that they did not plan to immediately seat Burris, they privately acknowledged the difficulty they face in continuing to refuse the appointment. One senior Democratic aide said Wednesday that leaders went into their regular meeting this morning feeling that “it is hard for it to end in any way other than in him being seated.”

This source said the leaders are exploring several options for dealing with Burris including seating him, referring the matter to the Rules and Administration Committee or even broadly interpreting their constitutional powers to deny him the seat altogether.

Meanwhile, Obama called Burris “a fine public servant” and said he would work with him if he were seated.

“That is a Senate matter,” Obama said during a brief press conference in Washington. “But I know Roland Burris,” Obama added. “I think he’s a fine public servant. If he gets seated, then I’m going to work with Roland Burris to make sure that the people of Illinois and the people of the country are served.”

Burris is planning to hold a press conference this afternoon at 1:30 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel.