It’s Official: Meet Sen. Burris

Posted January 15, 2009 at 1:29pm

Updated: 2:53 p.m. Illinois Democrat Roland Burris was sworn in this afternoon as President-elect Barack Obama’s sucessor in the Senate, capping two weeks of controversy and uncertainty surrounding his appointment by embattled Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D). Burris, the Senate’s only African-American Member, accepted Blagojevich’s nod in late December even as Senate Democratic leaders pledged to refuse anyone the governor chose. Blagojevich was arrested last year for allegedly attempting to peddle Obama’s seat to the highest bidder. Senate Democrats agreed earlier this week to allow Burris to take the seat despite earlier objections after he met all the appropriate certification requirements. Vice President Dick Cheney performed the swearing-in ceremony. “Terrific,” Burris said when asked how he felt to be Senator, moments after taking the oath of office. Just prior to his swearing-in, Burris was escorted to the Senate floor by his seat mate, Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). Members of the Congressional Black Caucus were present on the floor for the ceremony. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) was one of a few Republicans present. Immediately after Blagojevich’s arrest, Durbin had called for a special election to determine Obama’s successor. But Durbin quickly backed away from that position, and joined Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) in saying that Blagojevich should resign so that Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn (D) could make an appointment free of Blagojevich’s ethical cloud. Reid, in a statement, acknowledged the controversy surrounding Burris’ installment. But the Majority Leader made clear that Democratic leaders never questioned Burris’ integrity or his ability to serve. “Given the uncertainty around his appointment, all of his statements and actions – again, both publicly and privately – reflected a strong character that will serve him well as he begins his service to the people of Illinois,” Reid said. “Senator Burris, on behalf of all Senators, we welcome you as a colleague and a friend.”