In defiance of U.S. senators who said they would not seat his pick, Gov. Rod Blagojevich today said he would go ahead and select former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris to succeed President-elect Barack Obama in the Senate.
Blagojevich praised Burris for his “unquestioned integrity” and “extensive experience,” calling him a senior statesman.
“Please don’t allow the allegations against me to taint this good and honest man,” Blagojevich said.
Top Senate Democrats got a jump start on Blago’s expected announcement by issuing this statement:
Blagojevich’s news conference came less than an hour after U.S. Senate Democratic leadership issued a statement saying the Senate will not seat anyone the governor chooses to fill Illinois’ vacant Senate post. The statement also is signed by U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, who has repeatedly urged Blagojevich not to name a replacement for the seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama.
“This is not about Mr. Burris; it is about the integrity of a governor accused of attempting to sell this United States Senate seat,” the statement read. “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.”
The decision was made during a 10-minute conference call that included Reid, Durbin and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), as well as representatives of Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). There was little discussion and no dissent in reaching the position, a Senate aide said.
“The goal was to get this statement out before Blagojevich made his announcement,” the Senate source said.
Reid previously warned Blagojevich, following the governor’s Dec. 9 arrest, that Senate Democrats would not seat any appointment he made. Reid’s warning was contained in a letter signed by all 50 sitting Democratic senators.
Here’s the full statement:
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 â€“ 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.
As it stands, Senate Democrats may not have to worry about not seating Burris:
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) – Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White says he’ll reject any paperwork that Gov. Rod Blagojevich files to name a new U.S. senator.
The secretary of state keeps state records and certifies official actions.
But White says he won’t certify anything Blagojevich does to fill the Senate seat once held by President-elect Barack Obama.
White issued a statement today saying he can’t accept any paperwork from Blagojevich on the Senate seat “because of the current cloud of controversy surrounding the governor.”
It isn’t clear if that administrative roadblock would keep the appointment from taking place.
Burning question of the day: Since Burris is black but apparently will not be certified nor seated, will we hear howls of outrage from Rep. Bobby Rush (and his supporters), whose main requirement was that the next Senator who was appointed be black?
Stay tuned …
Update – 6:41 PM: Rep. Rush has indeed played the race card … and he didn’t waste any time, pulling the card out during Blago’s presser.