Burris expected to be seated

January 12, 2009 8:44:21 PM PST
It appears Roland Burris will be Illinois' next junior senator.Democratic leaders say the fight is over because the governor's appointee has now met the Senate's requirements.

Burris may be sworn in by the end of the week.

"I cannot say enough how humbled and honored I am to be afforded this opportunity to serve," said Burris.

U.S. Senate appointee Roland Burris says there are no hard feelings toward Illinois senior Senator Dick Durbin or Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Both opposed his appointment because it came from Governor Blagojevich and because they say it lacked the proper paperwork. That all changed when the Senate received a copy of an official letter of appointment.

Burris had a special message for Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White who refused to put his signature on the governor's appointment.

"Some have criticized Jesse and I think somewhat unfairly. He stood for what he believed was right and in our state's best interest," said White.

"I was not going to yield, and I was a little disappointed when Bobby Rush played the race card," said White. "I'm happy Illinois will have two U.S. senators."

Congressman Bobby Rush was the first to endorse Burris' appointment, saying the Senate needed an African American.

"There should be diversity at all levels of leadership - in corporate America and in Congress," Rep. Rush, (D) Chicago and South Suburbs.

But Illinois Republicans and some Democrats insist the state should never have allowed a Blagojevich appointment to stand and should have held a special election.

"The voters wanted a special election and they took this chance away. They gave it to someone who's been arrested, that's acting like a mad man. I think that's terrible for Illinois," said Andy McKenna, head of the Illinois Republican Party.

"We're going to have a much less effective representative... who comes with a cloud over him," said Rep. Mark Kirk, (R) Northern Suburbs.

"Because something is technically legally correct, doesn't make it right, and we should have done this much differently," said Rep. Jack Franks, (D) Woodstock.

President-elect Obama released a statement saying he's looking forward to working with mr. Burris as well as the rest of the U.S. Senate.

Timeline

It has been just under a 10 week process with major developments in between. Governor Rod Blagojevich announced what he called his process for selecting a senator on November 5, one day after Barack Obama was elected.

On November 9, Blagojevich was arrested on federal corruption charges, including the charge he tried to sell the U.S. Senate seat. Then special sessions of the state House and Senate were called but by the time the lawmakers returned to Springfield on December 15, the Democratic leaders had changed their minds and did not strip the governor or set an election date.

Fifteen days later on December 30, Blagojevich appointed Roland Burris, the former Illinois attorney general and controller who was the first African American to hold statewide office.

Initially U.S. national Democrats led by Illinois' Dick Durbin said they would never accept any Blagojevich appointee. But their positions softened during the next two weeks and on Monday they announced their intent to accept Roland Burris as a full member of the United States Senate.

When the Burris controversy began just under two weeks ago, ABC7 was advised by many veteran politicians in both parties that no matter what politicians said or did during the intervening time, that in the end the law would always trump the politics. And because the Illinois legislature did not act to strip Rod Blagojevich of his power to appoint nor did it set a special election, that meant that the law would prevail and that Governor Rod Blagojevich's appointment would be legal and ultimately Roland Burris would be named the U.S. Senator from Illinois.


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