Burris Hopes for Meeting With Reid

Posted January 2, 2009 at 5:48pm

Former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris (D), tapped by embattled Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) to replace President-elect Barack Obama in the Senate, said Friday that he fully expects to be turned away when he attempts to be seated in the Senate next week, but that he hopes to press his case in an as-yet-unscheduled meeting with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

Speaking on PBS’ “The Newshour With Jim Lehrer,” Burris told Ray Suarez that he plans to travel to Washington, D.C., Monday night and will attempt to be seated with other incoming Senators when the 111th Congress convenes on Tuesday.

“I’ll more than likely be denied entry, and then I’ll leave,” he said.

But Burris continued to insist that his appointment is legal and said he is trying to meet with Reid and other Senate leaders sometime next week.

Senate leaders have said they will refuse to seat Burris because of the scandal surrounding Blagojevich, who was accused by federal law enforcement officials last month of trying to sell Obama’s Senate seat. Obama and most state and national leaders, Democrats and Republicans alike, have said that any appointment Blagojevich makes is tainted.

But officials diverge on whether Blagojevich needs to resign or be impeached by the Illinois Legislature before a Senate appointment can be made, or whether a special election should be called so the voters can name Obama’s replacement. Legislative committees in Springfield are scheduled to reconvene on Wednesday – days earlier than planned – to consider impeachment proceedings against Blagojevich, but prominent Illinois Republicans on Friday wrote to Obama, Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), urging them to demand that the Legislature convene on Monday to vote on a special election.

“Illinois Democrats’ failure to strip Governor Blagojevich of his senate appointment power has created a constitutional crisis that will encompass many months and leave the people without a U.S. Senator at a point when this country is facing some of the most serious issues of our time,” Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.) and four other Illinois Republican leaders wrote in their letter. “All across Illinois, Republicans and Democrats agree that Governor Blagojevich’s appointment should not stand. The national embarrassment and crisis can be solved by passing a special election bill.”

But in the TV interview Friday, Burris said his appointment should in no way be affected by Blagojevich’s troubles, saying “I most certainly can separate myself from the governor.”

“The governor’s appointment is legal, and I am the junior Senator of Illinois,” he said.

Burris compared Blagojevich’s situation to that of former President Bill Clinton, who continued to govern even after he was impeached by the House.

“There’s no such thing as a tainted appointment by a chief executive who has the constitutional authority” to make it, Burris said.

Burris, a fixture in Illinois politics for decades who served three terms as state comptroller and one term as attorney general, said he has asked Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) to set up a meeting for him with Reid and other leading Senate Democrats. Burris said Durbin informed him that Reid was too busy to meet on Monday or Tuesday, but may be available Wednesday.

Durbin, who in the wake of the Blagojevich scandal called for a special election to replace Obama in the Senate, has stood with his Democratic colleagues in his insistence that Burris not be seated.