Durbin Reasserts Senate Authority to Deny Burris Seat

Posted January 11, 2009 at 10:42am

While arguing he wants the matter resolved quickly, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) insisted Sunday that Democratic leaders still have the right to refuse the appointment of former Illinois attorney general Roland Burris to replace President-elect Barack Obama.

“The Senate has the power to stand in judgment of its Members. It’s constitutional,” Durbin said on CBS’s Face the Nation.

Durbin did not go so far as to say that the Senate would not ultimately install Burris in the chamber, but he said the appointment needs further “scrutiny.” The No. 2 Senate Democrat said Senate lawyers still need to review Burris’ certification and lawmakers must review the testimony Burris gave last Thursday to an Illinois House committee that voted to impeach the man who appointed him, Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D).

“I want to do this in a fair and quick way, so Roland will know his fate,” said Durbin.

Durbin said that Burris’ appointment papers are unlike any that have been submitted by a Senate appointee “for more than a century,” but he said Senate lawyers were reviewing them to see if they comply with the chamber’s rules.

The secretary of the Senate at first rejected the Burris appointment because the Illinois secretary of State, Jesse White, had not signed off on the certification. White submitted a document to the Senate Friday that bore the state seal and his signature. The document stated that the appointment papers signed by Blagojevich — who allegedly attempted to sell the Senate seat in exchange for political favors — “is a true and accurate document setting forth an appointment made by the Governor of the State of Illinois.”

On the same program, Burris defended his appointment and said the certification now satisfies Senate rules. He said his lawyers will be meeting with Senate lawyers on Monday to discuss the certification.

Though he reiterated his threat to take legal action if the Senate rejects his appointment, Burris said he does not “want to create any type of scene. … I don’t want to have a long, drawn-out legal process.”