McConnell ‘Hopes’ Ethics Will Act on Burris

Posted February 22, 2009 at 3:03pm

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) did his best to leave the scandal surrounding appointed Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) for his colleagues on the other side of the aisle to deal with, telling John King of CNN that he “hopes” the Senate Ethics Committee will quickly review the matter.

“Well, look, I felt that there should have been a special election in Illinois to begin with,” McConnell said Sunday on State of the Union with King. “That didn’t happen. The appointment occurred. Sen. Burris is now a Senator. The Ethics Committee has jurisdiction over it. I hope they will look at it, and I hope they’ll look at it quickly.”

Republicans are saying as little as possible about the scandal, privately content to watch the Senate Democratic leadership twisting over the affair and hoping the Burris situation might enable their party to pick up the Senate seat in a special election or in 2010. Republicans are secretly hoping that Burris survives the latest dust-up over his appointment by then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D), as they feel that would give the GOP its best chance to win in an otherwise overwhelmingly Democratic state next year.

Privately, Democrats say the chances that Burris will survive to be their nominee in 2010 are very slim. Even if he rides out the current storm and declares he will seek a full term, Burris is all but certain to face a competitive primary challenge next year.

But upon being press by King earlier today, McConnell said he would like to see swift, decisive action by the Senate Ethics Committee, although he declined to reveal what outcome he would prefer.

“I was chairman of the Ethics Committee when we asked a Member of my party who was chairman of the Finance Committee to be expelled from the Senate. I think the Ethics Committee can work. I think, in this particular instance, it ought to work quickly, and resolve these differences, and make a recommendation to the full Senate,” McConnell said.

Burris’ appointment to the Senate by the scandal-scarred Blagojevich has been plagued with problems and intrigue from the start. Burris has come under fire for only recently disclosing that Blagojevich associates solicited him to raise campaign funds prior to his appointment. Blagojevich was impeached and removed from office by the Illinois Legislature a few weeks after he appointed Burris to the Senate.

Because of the politically sensitive nature of his appointment, Burris testified before a state legislative panel prior to being installed as Senator that he did not participate in a quid pro quo to receive the appointment.