WASHINGTON (CNN) – Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and other Democratic leaders are devising a plan to block the appointment of Roland Burris to the Senate for weeks in hopes it will prevent Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich from deciding who fills the seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama, a Senate Democratic leadership aide told CNN Wednesday.
The aide also rebuffed suggestions by constitutional law experts that the Senate cannot block Blagojevich’s appointment of Burris on the basis that “anyone appointed by Gov. Blagojevich cannot be an effective representative of the people of Illinois,” as the top five Democrats in the Senate asserted Tuesday in a statement. Blagojevich is facing criminal corruption charges in Illinois.
“He will not be seated,” said the Senate leadership aide, who insisted Burris will not be allowed on the Senate floor, nor will he be granted a Capitol Hill office, should he show up for the opening day of Congress next Tuesday.
According to the aide, Senate Democratic leadership staffers have been poring over Illinois case law since Tuesday evening, trying to determine if the Burris appointment can proceed if Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White refuses to sign off on it, as White has threatened.
If it is determined the lack of White’s signature will not impede Burris’s appointment, Democrats are prepared to file a motion to refer Burris’s appointment to the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration, the committee that credentials members of the Senate, the aide said, adding the motion could be debated and amended.
The process could take weeks and might buy Senate Democrats time if Illinois Lt.. Governor Pat Quinn is able to succeed Blagojevich and pull Burris’ appointment before it becomes final, assuming Blagojevich is forced from office or resigns before the Senate Rules Committee determines Burris’s status. The Senate aide acknowledged Senate Democrats are not sure if Quinn would have that authority.