Burris silent as critics call for resignation

February 20, 2009 8:37:55 PM PST
U.S. Senator Roland Burris is maintaining his silence on Friday. But others have added their calls for his resignation, including Illinois Governor Pat Quinn. Illinois Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias also called for Senator Burris to resign. In addition, Governor Pat Quinn supported legislation for a special election to fill a U.S. Senate vacancy.

Roland Burris' communications director Jim O'Connor said on Friday that Burris plans to be Washington next week to conduct his business in the U.S. Senate.

Late Friday afternoon, the senator's office had no comment on Governor Pat Quinn's latest call for a special election to replace Burris, only if Burris agrees to be replaced.

"We believe the voice of the people comes first," said Gov. Quinn.

The governor said the bill to set up the special election already has been introduced in the Illinois House by Representative Jack Franks, a Democrat from McHenry County.

It would require that in the event of an Illinois U.S. Senate seat vacancy a special election would be held within 115 days to fill the seat. In the interim, the governor would appoint a temporary senator to represent the state in Washington.

If the law passes the House and state Senate, Roland Burris could be replaced by the new system only if Burris resigned.

"There is just too much of a cloud over this appointment process for any senator such as Roland Burris to truly carry out the duties that the people of Illinois need," said Quinn.

Burris avoided waiting news cameras as he visited the North Chicago Veterans Administration Hospital.

In his last public appearance on Wednesday, he vowed not to answer news media questions on events leading to his appointment by impeached and ousted Governor Rod Blagojevich.

In Springfield, state treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, mentioned as a possible special election candidate, added his voice to the growing chorus demanding that Burris step down.

"The process has gone from tainted to contaminated to toxic. At best Senator Burris' comments were misleading and have taken away from his ability to do his job as a United States senator," said Giannoulias.

On Thursday, Republican state lawmakers offered a different version of a special election bill that would not require a Burris resignation to be effective. Their bill would consider Burris a temporary senator, set primary and general election dates and let voters choose among candidates who would include Republicans.

"Please stop subjecting the state to be a national embarrassment and just have a special election. It's a Democrat state. I don't know what they're so afraid of," said Sen. Matt Murphy, (R) Palatine.

Senator Murphy says he'll ask Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan for her reading on the Republican bill. Governor Quinn said on Friday it poses too many legal problems. He'd rather go with the Democrat bill and a hoped for Burris resignation.

The Huffington Post reported on Friday afternoon that Burris' acting chief of staff, Darrel Thompson, a man the public barely knew, has resigned. And one other note, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs says Burris should take time this weekend to "certainly think of what lays in his future."

Ill. governor says Burris should resign

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn called Friday for the resignation of U.S. Sen. Roland Burris on one track, while on another calling on the Illinois General Assembly to pass a law that would require a special election whenever a U.S. Senate vacancy occurs in Illinois. He said that the bill proposed by Rep. Jack Franks of McHenry County, a Democrat, would work in this case.

Quinn calls Burris an honorable man but says there's a shadow over his service in the Senate. The Democratic governor says it's in the best interest of the people of Illinois for Burris to step down.

"I would ask my good friend Senator Roland Burris to put the interests of the people of the Land of Lincoln first and foremost ahead of his own and step aside and resign from his office," Quinn said during a news conference Friday.

The governor also says a new senator should be chosen by special election.

"I urge the speaker and the president of the Senate to take this matter very seriously with their members to do what is right for the people of Illinois," said Quinn.

Roland Burris was appointed by former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who was later impeached and removed from office. Burris initially said there was no discussion of him doing any favors in exchange for the appointment.

But since then, Burris has acknowledged he had many discussions with Blagojevich friends and allies about the appointment. Burris says he was asked to raise money for Blagojevich but couldn't find anyone willing to contribute.

Governor Quinn has rejected a Republican proposal that a special election be called regardless of whether Burris resigns. The governor says that would invite too many legal challenges. He prefers the Democrat Jack Frank's proposal to have a special election that would happen if Burris resigns.

So far, Burris has given no indication that he will resign. In fact, ABC7 spoke Friday to a spokesperson for the senator who said Burris was planning to return to Washington to resume his work there next week.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


Load Comments