Burris to be sworn in Thursday

January 14, 2009 5:34:50 AM PST
The U.S. Senate has rolled out the welcome mat for Roland Burris, who will be sworn in as the junior senator from Illinois. Just a few weeks after he was appointed by embattled Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, Burris will take his place as the only African-American in the U.S. Senate. The details of the swearing in ceremony are still in the works.

Burris, 71, was up at 4 a.m. on Tuesday to appear on national morning news programs. Those appearances were followed by interviews with newspapers and radio stations around the world.

"I still got the energy. I still have the desire, and the commitment to serve the people. And that's what it takes," said Burris, (D) U.S. Senator-designate.

Burris, who was appointed by Gov. Blagojevich three weeks after the governor was arrested on federal corruption charges, had his credentials accepted by Senate lawyers on Monday. Initially, Majority Leader Harry Reid and Democratic Whip Dick Durbin said they would never accept a Blagojevich appointee. However, Burris' attorneys leaned on an unchanged state law that undergirded the governor's action.

"When the legislature failed to do a special election, he had no choice but to appoint somebody," said Burris.

Illinois Republicans say the connection to Blagojevich and the lack of a special election will limit Burris' effectiveness in Washington, as well as his appeal at home.

"People wanted a special election. It was wrong to have that taken away. I think because Rod Blagojevich became involved, it became a national embarrassment," said IL Republican Chairman Andy McKenna.

Burris, whose appointment was met with acclaim at Chicago City Hall Tuesday, is expected by Senate leaders to be a solid supporter of Obama administration policies. UIC political science professor Dick Simpson predicts Burris will be an "adequate" U.S. senator in his first term.

"He will not be a disgrace. He will be adequate as U.S. Senator. He will probably fulfill his role properly. But that will not give him a very good base for running for re-election," said Prof. Dick Simpson, UIC Political Science Department.

Burris says he'll set up a political website shortly, but will not make a decision about running for a full term in 2010 until after he's sworn-in and "gets his Senate legs" underneath him.

"You will see us making a move either in one direction- either a senator but not a candidate or a senator and a candidate," said Burris.

During November and the first week of December, Burris complained that the news media did not include his name when it reported who was under consideration for the Senate appointment. Burris wasn't included because his name was not on the list before the governor was arrested. If his name had been on the list, chances are he would not have been appointed because federal prosecutors allege that process was tainted by corruption.