Reid Says Senate Will Decide Burris’ Fate

Posted January 7, 2009 at 10:46am

Updated: 12:16 p.m.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) suggested Wednesday that Illinois Senate appointee Roland Burris (D) would eventually be seated as President-elect Barack Obama’s successor, but that the full Senate will ultimately decide the former state attorney general’s fate.

Reid, following a 45-minute meeting with Burris, said he was impressed with the Senate hopeful. Reid said the Rules and Administration Committee would have to review the matter, but he gave no indication that Burris would be rejected simply because he was appointed by embattled Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D).

Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) also participated in the session, offering similar hints that Burris could eventually win the seat.

“This was a positive meeting and it moves us forward,” Durbin said.

Neither Reid nor Durbin were specific regarding what it would take for the Senate to install Burris or reject him. But both lawmakers said he was doing all of the right things in terms of cooperating with the Blagojevich impeachment proceedings in Illinois and working through the courts to resolve the issue of his certification. They also stressed that — despite charges from others to the contrary — that Burris did not believe his appointment was being delayed because of race.

Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White (D) has declined to sign off on Burris’ appointment, and Reid said a Senate rule in place since 1894 requires that signature. Reid said the appointment would eventually get an up-or-down vote by the full Senate, following a review by the Rules and Administration Committee.

One Senate Democratic leadership aide said it would take a three-fifths vote of the chamber to affirmatively seat Burris, meaning they would likely need Republican support to get to the 59 votes necessary to install him.

Democrats currently have 57 Senators in place since the Illinois Senate seat remains in flux, as does that of Minnesota where incumbent Sen. Norm Coleman (R) is challenging the recount win of Democrat Al Franken.