WASHINGTON--After a 45-minute meeting with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nv.) and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) Wednesday morning, Roland Burris seemed set on a course to take a seat in the Senate.
Reid, who met Burris for the first time said the question will eventually be put before the entire Senate. Durbin has known Burris for more than 30 years. The mood was one of conciliation. Senate Democrats had said--before Burris was appointed--that they would not seat anyone tapped by Blagojevich, accused of trying to sell the Obama seat for a job or campaign contributions.
Burris has two hurdles to clear--none seem to be a problem-- before Senate Democrats lift their objections to approving an appointment from the tainted Gov. Blagojevich: a certification signature from the Illinois Secretary of State, expected soon one way or the other; and for Burris to testify before the Illinois House impeachment panel that he made no deal with the scandalized governor for the appointment.
Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White--in solidarity with other Illinois Democrats--did not sign the document needed to certify the Burris appointment. Reid noted that the senate rule requiring that certification has been in effect since 1884. Burris is asking the Illinois Supreme Court to expedite a ruling ordering White to sign.
President elect Barack Obama--whose seat Burris would fill, weighed in on the controversial appointment at a press conference Wednesday morning with a comment that seemed to signal to the Senate to seat Burris. "You know, that is a Senate matter. But I know Roland Burris. Obviously, I've -- he's from my home state. I
think he's a fine public servant. If he gets seated, then I'm goingto work with Roland Burris, just like I work with all the other senators, to make sure that the people of Illinois and the people of the country are served."
In a WGN interview on Wednesday, White complained that he has become a fall guy. White has been put in the middle because racial overtones have seeped in the controversy. Obama, Burris, White are African American.
Reid also addressed the race issue, having been stung as racially insensitive--and worse after a Sun-Times Sunday story reported that Reid talked to Blagojevich about the appointment and said three African-Americans from Illinois had statewide electabilty problems: Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.; Rep. Danny Davis and Illinois Senate president Emil Jones.
One of the first things Burris told Reid and Durbin, Reid said, "Hey, this is nothing that is racial. I understand that. So a lot of people have tried to make this a racial issue, but Roland Burris has not and will not."
Burris is scheduled to make a statement before cameras at 1:30 eastern time and then fly back to Chicago for a session with the city press corps. On Thursday, he heads to Springfield to testify in the impeachement proceeding.