WASHINGTON -- Inside a meeting Roland Burris had with officers of the Senate on Tuesday, everyone couldn't be nicer, I've been told. Burris asked to be sworn in as the junior senator of Illinois and was turned down. His lawyers asked if Burris could go to the Senate chamber -- where new and re-elected members were being sworn in -- and sign the oath book, and they were told no.
That does not mean Burris won't wind up as senator. Most Democrats I talked to now figure Burris will eventually be seated. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) broke ranks with Senate Democrats Tuesday and tilted toward Burris. Feinstein is influential in this saga because she chairs the Senate Rules Committee; the panel oversees membership issues.
The scene was high political theater. As Burris neared the Capitol, a gang of reporters waited in the rain outside the Senate side for Burris to appear and make a demand for the seat Senate Democratic leaders don't want him to have because he was appointed by the tainted Gov. Blagojevich.
Burris was met outside the Capitol and given VIP treatment by Terry Gainer, the Senate Sergeant-at-arms, who swept him past secur-ity, took him by the arm and navigated him through the media mob, into an elevator and into the office of the Secretary of the Senate. The choreography went as planned a few hours before, when three Burris aides mapped out the route with Gainer, a former director of the Illinois State Police.
The Burris team consisted of three attorneys, four advisers, a consultant and an intern. They huddled with the secretary of the Senate, two parliamentarians, the sergeant-at-arms and a staffer for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).
While Burris et al huddled on one side of the third floor, over on the other end, the ornate and historic offices of Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) were jammed with Illinois Democrats at a reception celebrating the launch of Durbin's third term.
Burris did not attend; after the meeting he was on to a press conference.
Reid gave Burris permission to meet the press on the Senate grounds and Burris, with mob in tow outside in the rain, made their way, frozen in place by security forces when the motorcade carrying Vice President elect Joe Biden zoomed past.
Calling himself "the junior senator from the state of Illinois," Burris told reporters, "I am not seeking to have any type of confrontation. I will now consult with my attorneys, and we will determine what our next step will be."
This morning, Burris meets with Durbin, the assistant majority leader, and Reid. "Playing meeting by ear," a Burris aide e-mailed me. "Stay tuned."
Reid talks to Jackson
Reid's staff reached out to staffs of Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.), Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.) and state Senate President Emil Jones (D-Chicago) to help deal with the fallout from a story in the Sun-Times about a Reid conversation with Blagojevich over not tapping any of the three for the Obama seat.
Davis told me Tuesday he wants to talk to Reid. "I heard that Sen. Reid said on television Sunday that there was some misrepresentation of what he said. I just want to chat with him and find out if that is the fact."
Reid spokesman Rodell Mollineau told me, "Sen. Reid will be happy to talk with Congressman Davis just as he talked to Congressman Jackson last week."