WASHINGTON (CNN) – A top Republican in the Senate is turning up the pressure on Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid to be more transparent about his involvement in selecting a replacement for President-elect Barack Obama’s empty Senate seat.
The process for replacing Obama took an unexpected turn when U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald revealed that Fitzgerald’s longstanding investigation of Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich included an alleged plan to award an appointment to Obama’s seat to someone willing to reward Blagojevich with political favors in return.
Against the wishes of Sen. Reid and the rest of the Senate Democratic Caucus, Blagojevich recently named Roland Burris to fill the seat. Senate Democrats refused Tuesday to seat Burris even though the Blagojevich pick traveled to Washington in an effort to be sworn in with the rest of the 111th Congress.
In a recent interview, Reid said he had one conversation with Blagojevich about replacing Obama but denied a Chicago Sun-Times report that he told Blagojevich not to appoint any of three prominent African-American politicians in Illinois out of concern that any of the three would not be able to win re-election to the Senate in 2010.
In the interview, Reid stopped just short of saying the scandal-ridden governor or those close to him were lying about the conversation concerning Obama’s seat. The Nevada Democrat stuck with his version of the conversation even when reminded by NBC’s David Gregory that the phone call might have been recorded as part of wiretapping of Blagojevich being conducted during Fitzgerald’s investigation.
Citing media reports about the Reid-Blagojevich conversation, Sen. John Cornyn called Tuesday for the release of any tape of the phone call, if such a recording exists.
“While I agree that this selection process has been tainted and Mr. Burris should not be seated, I would expect Senator Reid would also agree that more light needs to be shined on this selection process,” Cornyn said in a press release issued Tuesday. “Voters in Illinois deserve to know all of the details behind the deal-making to choose their next Senator,” the chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee added.
Read the entire Cornyn press release after the jump.
Text of Cornyn press release is below:
WASHINGTON, D.C. – In the wake of this morning’s decision by Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid to not allow Roland Burris to fill the Illinois Senate seat, National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn said today that if an FBI wiretap exists of the recent phone conversation between Senator Reid and Illinois Governor Rob Blagojevich, that tape should be made public in the interests of public disclosure and transparency behind the Senate seat selection process.
In an appearance on Meet the Press Sunday, Senator Reid claimed to not recall the details of his conversation with the soon-to-be-indicted Governor, despite media reports stating that during this call Senator Reid expressed his clear opposition to appointing two sitting U.S. Congressmen and the State Senate Majority Leader, on the grounds that they were “unelectable.” Senator Reid has also strongly opposed holding a special election in order to ensure this seat remains in the Democrats’ hands.
NRSC Chairman Cornyn said today - “The controversy surrounding the Illinois Senate seat cries out for transparency and public disclosure. Senator Reid led the charge against denying the people of Illinois a voice in deciding their next U.S. Senator through a special election. Today, he chose not to seat the Governor’s appointee, Roland Burris. While I agree that this selection process has been tainted and Mr. Burris should not be seated, I would expect Senator Reid would also agree that more light needs to be shined on this selection process. Voters in Illinois deserve to know all of the details behind the deal-making to choose their next Senator.
“If in fact Senator Reid did not actively lobby against appointing two sitting U.S. Congressmen, as he said on Meet the Press, then he should have no objection to calling on U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald to make this tape public. However, if in fact Senator Reid was trying to play kingmaker here, then that would shed a great deal of light behind his opposition to a special election and his efforts to keep this seat in the Democrats’ hands.
“The U.S. Attorney has already petitioned the court to release other Blagojevich wiretaps on the grounds that they would not interfere with the ongoing investigation. If a similar tape exists of the Reid-Blagojevich conversation, which Senator Reid said himself on Sunday that he believes it does, than it should be made public immediately.”