January 5th, 2009
01:12 PM ET
13 years ago

Secretary of the Senate rejects Burris appointment

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/01/05/art.getty.burris.jpg caption="The Secretary of the Senate rejected Roland Burris' appointment because the Illinois secretary of state did not sign his certificate of appointment."]

(CNN) - The secretary of the U.S. Senate on Monday rejected the certificiate of appointment for Roland Burris, named by Illinois' controversial governor to fill Barack Obama's Senate seat, according to an aide to the secretary.

The aide said Secretary of the Senate Nancy Erickson rejected Burris' appointment because it does not conform with the Senate rule requiring that the secretary of state - in this case, Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White - must sign the certificate of appointment along with the governor.

White has declined to sign the certificate, siding with some Senate Democrats who say Burris should not be seated because of the cloud over Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who is accused of trying to sell Obama's Senate seat.

According to a Democratic source and a Democratic Senate leadership aide, without the signed certificate Burris will be denied access to the Senate floor.

But Burris insists he has the legal right to serve as senator, and has said he will appear at the Senate's door Tuesday.

"I am going (to Washington) to be seated. I am the junior senator from the state of Illinois - that's all I can say," he said Monday at an airport news conference in Chicago before leaving for Washington.

Watch: 'Appointment is legal,' says Burris

He said he is not bothered by controversy surrounding his appointment by Blagojevich because "the appointment is legal. What has been done here is legal."

Pressed by reporters on what he would do if he is refused admission to the Senate floor, Burris said, "If I am turned away, my lawyers will take it from there and we'll see what happens."

He said he has not been contacted by anyone from the Obama team, and he insisted that he is not upset at the situation surrounding his appointment.

Watch Burris today on The Situation Room beginning at 4 pm ET

"I'm not angry with anybody," Burris said. "In fact, I'm enjoying this on behalf of the people of Illinois."

Watch the entire Burris press conference

Senate Democratic leaders have scheduled a meeting with him Wednesday.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said lawmakers have the legal authority to block Burris' appointment, but Reid has also left open the possibility that Burris could be seated.

Burris said he will meet with Reid on Wednesday.

"I will tell him I'm here to take my seat," he said.

Burris, 71, is one of Illinois' most accomplished African-American politicians.

He maintains that the governor's problems have nothing to do with him, and says he's not concerned about the political cloud hanging over his selection.

"I am the duly appointed, legally appointed United States senator from the state ofIllinois, and I certainly expect that the senators will recognize that and do not deny Illinois its equal representation as we get under way in this 111th Congress," he told CNN on Sunday.

"It is my hope and prayer that they will certainly have gotten the message that what the governor has done regarding his problems, they're not my problems, there's no taint on me, he has carried out his constitutional duty and found a person who was qualified to fill that vacancy, and that's what he's done."

Reid said Sunday that Blagojevich's appointment is "tainted," considering the charges against the governor.

"Blagojevich obviously is a corrupt individual. I think that's pretty clear. And the reason that he's done what he's done is to divert attention from the arrest that was just made of him and the indictments that will be coming in a few days according to the U.S. attorney in Illinois," Reid said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

Senate leaders questioning the appointment cite Article 1, Section 5 of the U.S. Constitution, which states, "Each house shall be the judge of the elections, returns and qualifications of its own members."

Those leaders say the problem is that the pick was made by the potentially tainted governor; the problem isn't Burris himself.

Reid said Blagojevich should step down, and then Illinois Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn could name someone - including Burris - to fill Obama's Senate seat.

Asked whether he would refuse to seat Burris should he try to claim a seat in the Senate, Reid responded, "We are going to do what we have to do."

"We're going to follow all legal precedents. ... We're pretty clear on what we believe is the law and the precedent in the United States Senate. ... Democrats and Republicans determine who is going to sit in the Senate," he said.

But Reid left the door open to a possible compromise resolution that might avert a confrontation with Burris and a growing grass-roots effort led by some black politicians and community leaders in Illinois.

Reid said he plans to meet Wednesday with Burris and Illinois' sitting senator, Richard Durbin.

"I'm an old trial lawyer," he told NBC's David Gregory. "There's always room to negotiate."

- CNN's Martina Stewart contributed to this report.

Filed under: Roland Burris
soundoff (122 Responses)
  1. Proud American


    January 5, 2009 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  2. JM

    Take it to court Burris, you'll win.

    January 5, 2009 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  3. Laverne

    Too bad these folk can't figure out how to go after and punish the "real culprit" here.

    January 5, 2009 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  4. obama-mama

    Blago and Burris are completely insane. They really should have Blago evaluated. Everytime I see him he looks like he's on edge and can't stand still.. ADD maybe?

    January 5, 2009 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  5. Jim D from IL

    Good, he doesn't deserve it. When you have a criminal Governor, admitting on tape that he was trying to sell the senate seat to the highest bidder, nominating someone who on a good day would be the 9th or 10th best choice for that seat, as a political stunt – it's hard to make the argument that "this is the best thing for the people of Illinois."

    Well, F' you Rod, and shame on you Roland from exploiting the situation for your own personal gain. Go away.

    January 5, 2009 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  6. Virginia

    At least someone in Illinois has some sense!

    January 5, 2009 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  7. Carole

    LOL...............too funny. I think Burris is probably more qualified than most of the yahoos in the Senate who are there.

    That said, he seems to be selfish. If he really cared about Illinois and the USA he would stay home and not create a spectacle. I am saying this as an African American.

    He is so looking stupid letting Looney Blago use him for his race.

    January 5, 2009 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  8. jrzshor

    this is political double speak.

    one cannot not sign/certify something and then reject the very thing that they refused to sign/certify because they refused to sign it in the first place.

    that is like me attesting to the fact that I might not know that I was arrested.

    January 5, 2009 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  9. Lorna, NY

    Burris is an idiot!

    January 5, 2009 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  10. Jane Doe

    The game is afoot!

    January 5, 2009 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  11. California Gold

    The devil is in the details. Bwwwwaaaaaaahhhhh!

    January 5, 2009 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  12. a muslim seeking justice

    what the hell is wrong with you cnn????...where is the main news?..are u guys deluded or trying to delude us into thinking all is well in gaza??...there is just one news item in your website currently and that too lamely lays the blame on hamas...atleast work with a little bit of conscience. Where is the breaking news about the 3 toddlers dying from the israel war????...why are you guys trying to hide it now???...pressured by the israeli lobby is it???? where's the no bias ,no bull crap now???? SHAME ON YOU!!!!!!

    January 5, 2009 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |

    Good. If he gets appointed the people of ILL should protest.

    January 5, 2009 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  14. Claire in NW Florida

    You democrats in Illinois, you're all corrupt. We may learn that Blago is the only honest official in your state.

    January 5, 2009 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  15. Thomas

    The rules of the Senate are very clear on this. The appointment letter must include the signature of the Secretary of State in order for it to be accepted by the Secretary of the Senate.

    January 5, 2009 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  16. JimmyE

    Excellent news! It's time for Mr. Burris to selflessly reject Blagojevich's appointment just like many well meaning Illinoisans and Americans have done.

    January 5, 2009 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  17. Tim

    Just send it over to me, I'll sign it for a price.

    January 5, 2009 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  18. Mike, Syracuse NY

    Act 1 of the next 4 year Demo-drama.

    January 5, 2009 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  19. diana

    I don't blame him one bit...Blago was told not to appoint anyone and he thought he was above the law and could whatever the hell he wanted to....Burris knew this and hes trying to pull a fast one too....WHAT A BUNCH

    January 5, 2009 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  20. Kenneth

    Blagojevich is just running game. He is effectively taking the attention off of his actions and placing it on the Senate. We all knew that there would be resistance to any appointment he made so he took the cowards route and appointed a minority believing that if denied he would stir up racial tensions that would overshadow his attempt to sale the seat. Burris and Congressman Rush should be ashamed at being used as pawns in this silly game. As a minority in America I am disappointed that two men who could have made a difference in civil rights have taken this position alongside such a "possibly" corrupt man. President-Elect Obama spoke against Blagojevich making the appointment so why would anyone with the best interest of the country in mind accept the appointment? This was a despicable self-serving act for all involved and I can only pray that eventually the "right" person will fill the vacated seat.

    January 5, 2009 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  21. DC Observer

    The IL Secretary of State has now willfully violated state law. This has now gone to the State Supreme Court, which will quickly order the Secretary to sign to document.

    I have never seen so many lawmakers at the state and federal level who were so ignorant of the law, and so willing to bend it and break it. O was particulary disturbed – as should every Constitution lawer – over the remarks made by senator Harry Reid on Meet the Press on sunday, when Reid said "The US Senate (we) decide who will and will not be admitted and seated in the senate" In one short interview, Reid has turned the US Constitution and individual states rights on its ears by the abdurd and illegal posture and stance.

    January 5, 2009 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  22. naqib

    Maybe he should nominate Bill Richardson... oh wait?

    January 5, 2009 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  23. Tim

    I think I'm going crazy. Everywhere I turn in politics today I hear the opening to Three Dog Night's "The Show Must Go On". Does anyone else here it?

    January 5, 2009 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  24. Joe in NJ

    Despite what anyone thinks of Blagojevich, he's innocent until proven guilty and is still the Governor. As Governor, he has the right to appoint Burris as Senator and his appointment will be upheld in any court of law. What happens after he gets convicted is another story.

    January 5, 2009 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  25. fredday

    What ever happened to the fundamental right of innocence until proven guilty? A prosecutor does not a conviction make... not yet, at least. Let the process work its way through, but, in the interim, seat the duly appointed senator.

    January 5, 2009 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
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