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Burris digging in as Durbin gives push to go

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WASHINGTON -- Despite calls to resign -- add Sen. Dick Durbin to the list -- embattled Sen. Roland Burris dug in on Tuesday.

Burris met with Durbin for almost an hour to plead his case, but did not get the boost he hoped for.

"I told him that under the circumstances I would consider resigning if I were in his shoes. He said he would not resign and that was his conclusion," Durbin said.

Durbin said he asked Burris if he was going to run in 2010 and Burris said he has not decided. But a source told the Sun-Times that Burris has come to realize he has been drained of any meaningful political support, and a 2010 bid was not tenable.

In recapping their talk, Durbin said, "I told him it would be extremely difficult for him to be successful in a primary or a general election under the circumstances." Durbin said he would not support Burris if he ran.

Durbin seemed weary of the controversy stemming from a high point in Illinois history, the presidential election of then-Sen. Barack Obama.

"Again, it raises sadly the specter of political controversy in my home state. People in Illinois are bone-weary of this stuff. They want this Blagojevich burlesque to end and they want to move on."

Burris went about Senate business on Tuesday, voting and attending a lunch for Democratic senators, a hearing and Obama's address before a joint session of Congress.

"As far as my colleagues here in the Senate, they are grasping as I am to try to get to the truth of this situation. They are confused and concerned about the disclosures that have been made," Durbin said.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Durbin said they would work with Burris.

"So we will find ways to cooperate and work together. I don't want the people of Illinois to lose anything because of this controversy," Durbin said.

Durbin said Burris told him he was under some financial pressure. Burris has said he now owes at least $400,000 for lawyers.

Now-ousted Gov. Rod Blagojevich was arrested Dec. 9 for, among other charges, allegedly trying to sell Obama's seat.

Senate leaders initially balked at seating Burris, appointed Dec. 30. In a deal encouraged by President Obama, they cleared the way for him on the condition he testify under oath to the Illinois House impeachment panel about the details surrounding his appointment by Blagojevich, who was removed from office on Jan. 29.

It turned out that Burris did not fully lay out contacts with people in Blagojevich's orbit, including a request by Blagojevich's brother to raise campaign funds for him. That triggered a Sangamon County state's attorney probe and a preliminary investigation by the Senate Ethics Committee.

Trapped by reporters while waiting for an elevator after his talk with Durbin, Burris said, "it was a good meeting."

I asked Burris spokesman Jim O'Connor how Burris staying on helps Illinois. O'Connor said Burris "brings a lifetime of commitment and 30 years of public service to his work in Washington. His advocacy and his vote in the United States Senate are powerful tools on behalf of the people of Illinois."

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Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on February 25, 2009 6:22 AM.

Obama tells us cope, hope, pain, gain. Burris seemingly snubbed by Obama was the previous entry in this blog.

President Obama official schedule and guidance, Feb. 25, 2009. Stevie Wonder gets Gershwin Prize at the White House. Tony Bennett, Will.i.am others perform is the next entry in this blog.

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