Ill. lawmakers to meet in special session

Roland Burris prepares for trip to D.C. to assume new position
January 2, 2009 9:17:35 PM PST
The Illinois House is expected to accelerate impeachment proceedings against Gov. Blagojevich next week with a special session that's slated to include the first impeachment vote. Meantime, his Senate appointment Roland Burris prepares to head to Washington next in what's expected to be an uphill battle to assume his new position as Illinois' junior Senator.

He's one man with a date at two capitals.

On Tuesday, the appointment Roland Burris intends to keep: a swearing-in ceremony for new U.S. Senators in Washington.

In Springfield, at a date still to be set, the House Impeachment Committee is asking Burris to testify about his Senate appointment.

"The appointment is legal. The appointment is legitimate and the governor's problems have absolutely, positively nothing do with my appointment," said Burris, U.S. Senate appointee.

Stung by Republican criticism that state Democrats could have avoided the Senate showdown if only they had acted on a bill creating a special election, leaders in the state House are now fast tracking hearings that could force Rod Blagojevich from office.

On Tuesday, the House Impeachment Committee may take its first vote.

The full House is being called back into session Wednesday and all members could vote on impeachment as early as Thursday. Governor Blagojevich's trial in the Senate could begin soon after that.

"I think you will probably see an overwhelming majority of members vote yes on impeachment, it may be unanimous," said State Rep. Tom Cross (R), House minority leader.

Meanwhile, Roland Burris and his supporters are stepping-up efforts to pressure Senate leaders to back-down from their efforts to block Burris from taking the seat.

Burris' team sent a letter to leaders of the Democratic Caucus. It includes documents and case law and support Burris' stance.

A lot of the pressure will be targeted at the number-two man in the Senate, Illinois' own Dick Durbin.

"There's really no sound basis to deny Roland Burris," said Rep. Bobby Rush (D), Chicago.

The man with the keys to the Senate Chamber is former Illinois State Police Director Terry Gainer.

"I don't think there's going to be any pushing or shoving in the hallways. I think this well all get worked out and this dispute will end up in court where it should be," said Terry Gainer, U.S. Senate sergeant at arms.

Roland Burris and Senator Dick Durbin did have a short phone conversation on Friday. ABC7 has learned a meeting has been arranged between Mr. Burris and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Due to scheduling, that meeting won't happen until Wednesday, one day after Burris hopes to be sworn in.

All signs are the Senate will refer Burris' appointment to the Rules Committee which would give everyone 90 days to sort things out.