Durbin Recommends Burris Step Aside

Posted February 24, 2009 at 3:15pm

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said he advised his embattled home-state colleague, Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.), to resign, but stopped short of demanding such an action.

“I told him that under the circumstances, I would consider resigning,” Durbin said Tuesday. “He told me he was not resigning.”

Durbin also said he told Burris he would not be able to support him if he ran for election in 2010.

The two Senators met in Durbin’s third floor Capitol office in their first face-to-face meeting since Burris acknowledged he had had more contact with associates of disgraced Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) than he previously had acknowledged. Blagojevich was removed from office for, among other things, attempting to sell the seat vacated by President Barack Obama for political favors.

Burris appeared in good spirits upon exiting Durbin’s office, but generally declined to answer reporters’ questions, citing the advice of his attorneys.

“We had a good discussion, … a great discussion,” Burris said, while declining to answer whether he has given any thought to resigning his seat or if he plans to stand for election in 2010. Additionally, Burris declined to give an opinion regarding Durbin’s thoughts on the meeting. “You’ll have to ask Sen. Durbin that question,” he said.

When pressed further by reporters on whether he might resign or run to retain his seat next year, Burris said he was “under orders to — not to speak about this,” before clarifying that those orders were self-imposed. “My own orders,” he said. “My attorneys suggested I don’t discuss this.”

But Durbin said he told Burris he was “disappointed that he didn’t make a clear and accurate description” of his contacts with Blagojevich aides and associates, including the revelation that Burris had attempted to raise campaign cash for the governor while he was lobbying for the Senate appointment.

“We had asked for more and hoped for more, and we didn’t receive it,” Durbin said.

Durbin said Burris should have volunteered the information.

Still, Durbin said he would continue to work with Burris when necessary on Illinois state matters, while the Senate Ethics Committee and a state’s attorney review the case.