Harry Reid has warned that the Senate will not seat anyone appointed by disgraced Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. Now comes word that the Governor has picked former Illinois AG Roland Burris, who would be the only African-American in the Senate:
Shortly after Obama’s Nov. 4 victory, Burris made known his interest in an appointment to the Senate but was never seriously considered, according to Blagojevich insiders. But in the days following Blagojevich’s arrest, and despite questions over the taint of a Senate appointment, Burris stepped up his efforts to win the governor’s support.
Though he is 71, Burris has said that Obama’s replacement should be able to win re-election and he has noted that despite a string of primary losses in races ranging from Chicago mayor to governor and U.S. senator, he’s never lost to a Republican.
Blagojevich, who has sole authority to name a replacement senator, scheduled a 2 p.m. news conference at his downtown Chicago office.
Blagojevich’s criminal defense attorney Ed Genson had said Blagojevich would not name a Senate successor to Obama. The governor had indicated he agreed with other Illinois politicians that the best option might be a special election to fill Obama’s seat. But state lawmakers have not taken up the necessary legislation.
UPDATE: One source close to all this notes that Secretary of State Jesse White has said he will not certify any appointment by Blogojevich, which may be a way to block it. Meanwhile, the Senate Democratic leadership issued this statement, through the office of Senate Majority Whip (and Illinois Senator) Dick Durbin:
“It is truly regrettable that despite requests from all 50 Democratic Senators and public officials throughout Illinois, Gov. Blagojevich would take the imprudent step of appointing someone to the United States Senate who would serve under a shadow and be plagued by questions of impropriety. We say this without prejudice toward Roland Burris’s ability, and we respect his years of public service. But this is not about Mr. Burris; it is about the integrity of a governor accused of attempting to sell this United States Senate seat. Under these circumstances, anyone appointed by Gov. Blagojevich cannot be an effective representative of the people of Illinois and, as we have said, will not be seated by the Democratic Caucus.
“Next week we will start one of the most important debates of the year – outlining an economic recovery plan to create jobs and invest in America. And in the coming weeks, we will be working to protect homeowners and consumers, make America more energy independent, strengthen our national security, and improve health care and educational opportunities. There is much work to do and a lot at stake. It is thus critical that Illinois and every other state have two seated Senators without delay.
“We again urge Gov. Blagojevich to not make this appointment. It is unfair to Mr. Burris, it is unfair to the people of Illinois and it will ultimately not stand. The governor must put the interests of the people of Illinois and all Americans first by stepping aside now and letting his successor appoint someone who we will seat.”