UPDATED 8:34 P.M. EASTERN TIME with Obama statement
WASHINGTON--All roadblocks were lifted Monday and Roland Burris will be sworn in later this week to replace President elect Barack Obama.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nv.) and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the assistant majority leader issued a joint statement Monday afternoon after the controvery ignited by the tainted Illinois Gov. Blagojevich was resolved.
"We have spoken to Mr. Burris to let him know that he is now the Senator-designate from Illinois and as such, will be accorded all the rights and privileges of a Senator-elect," they said.
The Senate Democrats, who vowed not to seat a Blagojevich appointee--the governor was arrested Dec. 9 for, among other crimes, trying to auction off the Obama seat--ended up backing down in the wake of thin legal grounds for blocking Burris and a racial backlash that developed over filling the vacancy of the only African American in the Senate.
"As we had outlined to Mr. Burris, a path needed to be followed that respects the rules of the Senate. We committed to Mr. Burris that once those requirements were satisfied, we would be able to proceed. We are pleased that everything is now in order, we congratulate Senator-designee Burris on his appointment and we look forward to working with him in the 111th Congress," Reid and Durbin said.
Burris, a state lobbyist, former Illinois Attorney General and Comptroller, must mount a campaign almost immediately if he wants to run for the seat in 2010 since nominating petitions for the spot are due at the end of the year. Illinois and national Republicans already have him in their scope.
Illinois Republican Party Chairman Andy McKenna said in a statement, "By failing to strip Rod Blagojevich of his senate appointment power, Democrats chose to trust a madman over the people of Illinois.
"The national embarrassment of the Blagojevich saga could have been avoided first in 2006 when Democrats endorsed the Governor knowing he was under intense federal investigation and second by stripping him of his senate appointment power following his arrest.
"Today's endorsement of Rod Blagojevich's handpicked choice for U.S. Senate confirms what Republicans have been saying for years - that Illinois is in dire need of change," McKenna said.
Republican National Committee Chairman Robert M. "Mike" Duncan slapped Reid and Durbin in a statement.
"It is regrettable that Senate Democrats have gone back on their word and will now seat Governor Rod Blagojevich's appointee. Harry Reid and Dick Durbin have placed Washington politics above the people of Illinois or transparency. Democrats had every opportunity to strip Governor Blagojevich of his power to appoint a U.S. Senator, but ultimately they accepted a Blagojevich appointee rather than risk losing a Senate seat in a special election. The Senate Majority Leader's lack of confidence in the ability of Illinois voters to select their own representative in the Senate for the 111th Congress is extremely disappointing and sends exactly the wrong message," Duncan said.
"As the President-elect has said repeatedly, he knows Roland Burris and has high regard for him. He looks forward to working with Senator Burris and the rest of the United States Senate to rebuild our economy and meet the great challenges of our time," said Obama-Biden Transition Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer.
Full Reid-Durbin Statement
"The Secretary of the Senate has determined that the new credentials presented today on behalf of Mr. Burris now satisfy Senate Rules and validate his appointment to the vacant Illinois Senate seat. In addition, as we requested, Mr. Burris has provided sworn testimony before the Illinois House Committee on Impeachment regarding the circumstances of his appointment.
"We have spoken to Mr. Burris to let him know that he is now the Senator-designate from Illinois and as such, will be accorded all the rights and privileges of a Senator-elect.
"Accordingly, barring objections from Senate Republicans, we expect Senator-designee Burris to be sworn in and formally seated later this week. We are working with him and the office of the Vice President to determine the date and time of the swearing-in.
"As we had outlined to Mr. Burris, a path needed to be followed that respects the rules of the Senate. We committed to Mr. Burris that once those requirements were satisfied, we would be able to proceed. We are pleased that everything is now in order, we congratulate Senator-designee Burris on his appointment and we look forward to working with him in the 111th Congress."
Statement of Congressman Rush in response to U.S. Senate Roland Burris taking the oath of office on Thursday to replace President-Elect Barack Obama in the U.S. Senate
"I thank God that Roland Burris is now a member of the Illinois delegation to the U.S. Congress. I am elated. This is a victory for the people of Illinois. Senator Roland Burris is a capable man; a seasoned elected official who will hit the ground running and achieve unparalleled success for a freshman Senator. I look forward to working with him in the U.S. Congress. I applaud Senator Dianne Feinstein from California and Senator Patrick Leahy from Vermont who stood up for fairness and justice.
"Burris had a fine legal team, but if it were not for an energized community, nationwide, who spoke up by calling, praying, rallying and doing other things to make their voices heard. This was democracy in action.
"I am pleased that I was a part of this historic moment, but I am relieved that this fight is over. In this process I have been attacked by some media outlets that have misunderstood my motives and have engaged in character assassination. Hate mail was directed at me, and my office. I've paid a price, but I am willing to continue fighting for what is right, just and fair.
"When I entered this fight, I had one basic premise and it was that the Senate should reflect America. It should be more diverse. And this is true for all levels of leadership. We have come a long way in America but we have a long way to go. It is important that we come to grips with racism and not try to sweep it under the rug. Institutional racism is still rampant and it is unhealthy and premature to claim that we are now living in a post-racial, colorblind society.
"We now have one African American Senator out of 100, but we need more. We have two governors out of 50, and one was appointed. We need more. Look at corporate boards, major law firms, hospitals, top educational institutions and even the athletic directors at major universities. We need more African Americans in leadership.
"There are still citadels of racism that exist in America. We must acknowledge it and correct it. We must deal with racism, sexism, homophobia, and all the social ills that cause us to mistreat, disrespect and malign one another.
"The people of Illinois should rest assured that as we go forward dealing with these issues as well as the important issues of our economy and war that, from day one, President-elect Barack Obama will have two capable and sensitive senators from Illinois fully engaged in helping to deal with these critical issues."