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. vincent - phoenix


    you know... i have mixed feeling on this.... Illinois DOES deserve its full representation..... Burris (while a well know opportunist), 'is' above reproach regarding his ethics...


    that question HAS to be asked.....

    January 5, 2009 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  2. Matt of Boston

    We have a new junior senator from Illinois, and to all those Senators in DC and beauracrats in IL who fail to understand the legality of the appointment, it is time for them (Harry Reid in particular) to resign

    January 5, 2009 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  3. SMR

    Rejecting this appointment is the first step in booting Blago. PE Obama will have no part of a crook and liar like Blago. I hope MR. BURRIS will be placed in some position on the Obama team.

    January 5, 2009 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  4. In Houston, TX

    It's really sad that Blago made an appointment, especially when he knew that my party was not going for it. I think he is guilty as hell and should step aside. I am really mad that he appointed such a qualified individual. I keep hearing non democrats and burris try to make this a racial issue. It is not. Blago is dirty and under scrutiny for it. No appointment he makes is going to stick. Burris knows that and he should respect the wishes of his party

    January 5, 2009 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  5. TCM

    a muslim seeking justice – come on man, Obama's not ready to handle middle east mayhem....he's got a party to tend to...right now, there's only one president at a time! He'll continue to blame it on Bush!

    January 5, 2009 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  6. richard rohde

    There is nothing in the Constitution of the US that would prohibit Mr. Burris from taking the seat to which he was appointed by the lawful governor of Illinois in accordance with the constitution of that state. Sounds like he has a great lawsuit against the Senate and with all the trial lawyers in there I am surprised they have not jumped on it.

    January 5, 2009 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  7. Mike, Syracuse NY

    @a muslim seeking justice. Maybe those kids would still be alive if Hamas wasn't launching rockets from their neighborhood. Hamas hides among innocent civilians like cowards and then wants the world to condemn Israel.

    January 5, 2009 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  8. Pat

    Just like the Senate headed by the racists Harry Reid and his fellow Racists Democrat Senators. Where in the constitution of the United States does it say the State Secretary of States have to sign? Just like the first time the Illinois State played their games with Blago the Supreme Court is going to rule for Blago and Burris. Blago is innoncent until proven guilty (same as GOV Richardson of New Mexico) and Blago has nothing to do with the qualifications of Burris. The precedent being set here is BAD really BAD. What happens if the US Senate wins this and they get to set the standards for all members to be seated based on what they want. Soon you will have a corrupt party not allow any members of the other party to be seated. Look Burris is a good 2 year place holder in the Senate. In two years there is another election and the citizens of Illinois can decide (not Harry Reid) who they want to elect.

    January 5, 2009 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  9. TCM

    a muslim – further note, perhaps you should police your own; if you want the Israel to stop kicking our butt, control the radicals!! I'm sick of the kid glove treatment terrorist nations get, and when someone retaliates, they want to show baby pics....too bad! If you don't want your kids killed, don't put them in harm's way but lobbing rockets at someone else!

    January 5, 2009 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  10. Deb

    Burris stay home

    January 5, 2009 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  11. Larry of Boson

    To a muslim seeking justice, the solution in Gaza is simple, and has been there for years – throw Hamas out; they are a terrorist organization who targets civilians and fights behind women and children, using them as shields, If the Palestinians want peace, they need to toss out the Hamas terrorists. If you keep Hamas in Gaza and allow them to break treaties and fight behind women and children, then Gaza will eventually be leveled and turned into goat fields and gardens. Hamas has vowed to destroy Israel - I take my shoes off and throw them at Hamas - they are the reason why Gaza will never have peace. It is time for the Palestinian people to wake and realize they are being used by Hamas and Iran - who do not want peace. Why did Egypt give up? They realized that Hamas could not be reasoned with.

    January 5, 2009 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  12. max (NY)

    Nobody needs to be angry at the rejection of Burris nomination. he shouldn't have accepted the offer in the first place, because he is as stuborn and insubordinate as his appointer, for it was warned long before that Blagojevich's choice would not be accepted. They both chose to disregard the principle of justice and sanction against corruption and dishonesty. If he was not chosen by Blagojevich, he wouldn't protest the decision to reject the nomination of any one else chosen by him. Blagojevbich is not above the law and is a bad exemple for people to follow. If as a governor, he disregards the law of the establish government, how does he expect the people to respect the law. If he was a real politician, he should consent to his misdeed and accept the consequence of it and resign. His empeachment is next to be heard of. Even if he would nominate God to the seat, his appointment is just not a-c-c-e-p-t-a-b-l-e. Period.

    January 5, 2009 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  13. Flash news

    Blago doesnt like the color orange,he wants his jumpsuit in pink,thank you.

    January 5, 2009 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |

    Blago should never have appointed anyone and Burris should never have accepted!!! As for Rep.Bobby Rush to come out and inject racism is totally crazy! When Obama ran for the Senate, he didn't back him. So he doesn't have a pot to piss in!!! Personally, I think the seat should go to Jesse Jackson Jr. I'm interested in knowing whether Burris or Rush are included in the Blago tapes.

    January 5, 2009 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  15. worriedmom

    I want Burris in there just so it will get Harry Reid all upset. Let's boot Reid and Pelosi ! What a bunch of idiots!

    January 5, 2009 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  16. Land

    Was he appointed legally? Yes. But clearly no one but Burris and Blagojavich thinks this appointment has traction and Burris'es conduct pretty much pegs him as a greedy opportunist. In an interview with him on NPR, he rudely defended his appointment strictly on the letter of the law without regard for the charges against Blagojavich. Had he shown more candor he wouldn’t have appeared to be a Blagojavich crony. As it stands, hes lost credibility and is probably just as self serving and egotistical as Blagojavich has been described as.

    January 5, 2009 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  17. anthony

    Claire in Florida,

    If Blago is a honest politician by Republican standard, the Republicans should get both Blago and Burris to change their party to Republican. Blago can be the chairman of the RNC, and Burris can join the Senate as a Republican, which is only logical since only the Republicans want him to be seated. This way, everybody wins.

    January 5, 2009 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  18. J.P..

    Nice... Blago is a scumbag, but he is still presumed innocent under law. So technically, he's legally able to carry out his duties as IL gov, one of which is to appoint senators in a time of transition such as this.

    I say, Dirty Harry Reid should seat the guy... that is, if he doesn't want to be labeled... (wait for it)... "RACIST."

    Gotta love it when liberals get their own bag of tricks played back against them. How you loving political correctness now, hippies?

    January 5, 2009 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  19. Proud to be American

    Burris appears to be getting punish due to the other B guy.... not fair. Sign the paperwork and lets move on will ya?

    January 5, 2009 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  20. Pam, Illinois

    The Senate should stick to what it claimed it would do – that is not seat any person appointed by blago. Burris came into this mess with a stellar reputation. Now, forever more, he'll be attached to our lying, cheating, crooked gov. It's so sad that he traded his good name for a shot at a freebie senate seat.

    January 5, 2009 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  21. Jessica, Northern VA

    Here is the idea, do not take a position where there are going to be questions about you taking it. Blagojevich was charged because he was going to sell the seat that you are going to fill. You are playing into his hands by putting up a fight about it. It was wrong for you to accept the seat and its is wrong of you to be putting up a fuss about it.

    At the end of the day, you are casting a dark cloud over yourself for being so stupid for taking the seat and causing the nation to focus in your direction instead of what the government is going to do and not do to help its citizens gets the economy back on its feet. If you really thought about serving the state, you would of said said no.

    January 5, 2009 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  22. Former Republican Army Wife

    Why would anyone in their right mind accept the seat to begin with? Burris ran for Governor twice and lost, ran for mayor and lost, both losses by significant margins. This is a way for Blago to deflect media coverage off himself and a chance for Burris to stroke his ego, by accepting a seat, he would have never won in an election. This is pathetic and an insult to the people of Illinois. The only people bringing race into this is Burris himself. This is so pathetic it's actually quite comical.

    January 5, 2009 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  23. gregg45


    January 5, 2009 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  24. Danny in Chicago

    January 5th, 2009 1:16 pm ET

    Take it to court Burris, you'll win.

    No....Burris wont win. It's a mute point, but go ahead and go to court Burris – You're only helping dig Blago's grave.....but go ahead and go to court......

    January 5, 2009 02:06 pm at 2:06 pm |
  25. Ex-Republican

    @a muslim seeking justice
    While you are correct that the unfolding events in regards to Gaza is news, you must be a bit ill if you think you are going to find it be the ONLY news story here. Try the 'WORLD NEWS" section of this site and you just might find your story there.

    And if you are too self-centered with what you consider should be the ONLY topic discussed..the appointment and acceptance of Burris in the senate is a VERY POLITICAL news topic, or does politics in the US not seem important to you? Guess what, it is to alot of those that come to read the POLITICAL SECTION!

    You must be on some form of mission.....but who would have known with your 'oh so inconspicuous' handle?

    January 5, 2009 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
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