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. Grimm

    What a mess...

    January 5, 2009 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  2. California Gold

    So much for Burris being a stellar appointment. The man doesn't even know enough to read the freaking form to see who has to sign off. What a nincompoop. Couldn't follow simple procedures so runs off to file a Writ of Mandamus. Last week Burris looked like just another greedy political wanna be who was glad to make a deal with the devil. This week Burris looks like another greedy political wanna be fool. Didn't he think someone needed to sign that signature block? And this from an Attorney General. Nincompoop.

    January 5, 2009 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  3. Taa Taa

    Eventhough Burris is extremely qualified, he should have rejected the appointment. I think had he done that, he would have been the one chosen after the scandal. I think he is being extemely selfish and is not listening to the will of the people in Ill.. Are we sure he's a democrat, cause dems normally listen to what "We the people say".
    Anyway, I don't think he should be appointed, and I really do wish he had rejected it from the beginning.....

    January 5, 2009 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  4. VoiceOfReason

    Uh, can we fax that in?

    January 5, 2009 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  5. Rob

    Over the weekend, various gatherings of 'people of color' / African American (sorry, I've misplaced my Political Correctness and Sensitivity manual so I don't know how to properly refer to various groups) popped up around Chicago. Now all of them are playing the race card. They totally ignore the real reason they won't seat Burris, and go for the angle that they're all use to: "If you don't support us, it's because you are racist." This has been the modus operandi of the Chicago African-American Democrat machine. Question is, now that their Golden Child, their Messiah, shall ascend to the throne of greatness on the 19th, how much will this be played on the national scale? Having lived in the area all my life, the answer is more than likely, a lot.

    Playing the race card, from the bottom of the deck – that's the Chicago way!

    January 5, 2009 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  6. LGriff

    Guess the senates have met their match. Blago and Burris did not back down from them, What now????

    January 5, 2009 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  7. Ken, TX

    Lorna from NY is also an idiot.

    January 5, 2009 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  8. GA Independent

    Good for the US Senate. They have to follow the rules. The real issue is that the Illinois people and pols don't have the guts or the sense to impeach Blago... Blago has essentially thumbed his nose at everyone and they are just sitting around waiting for something to happen... Fools...

    January 5, 2009 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  9. Aidan

    I have one question for Mr. Burris.

    Was Eve tainted once she accepted the forbidden fruit from Satan in the Garden of Eden?

    January 5, 2009 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  10. demwit

    Perhaps Hillary is interested.., oh wait!

    January 5, 2009 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  11. demwit

    However, the Secretary of the Senate is willing to meet privately(unbugged room) to discuss Board of Director openings, or other paid equivalent positions, for her spouse..., oh wait!

    January 5, 2009 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  12. Rick

    If Burris is really surprised over the controversy surrounding his appoint, then he really isn't qualified to serve. No one with that lack of perception is qualified.

    On another more serious note, it's absolutely disgusting that some are trying to turn this into a racial issue. Burris is not being rejected because he is black. Anyone appointed by Blago would be rejected. If there is anything racial about this, it is that Blago delibrately appointed a black hoping to cloud the fact that anyone he appointed would be tainted and change the issue away from him. Unfortunately their seems to be a constituancy that is buying into this – and Burris seems to be among the leaders.

    January 5, 2009 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  13. Terry

    The Illinois legislature is setting a record for inactivity when it comes to dealing with this crooked governor. I suspect he has reminded many of them of the deals they have worked on together. He has perhaps mentioned to a number of them that if he goes down, he'll take them with him.

    I could be wrong, but what else could explain the amazing silence of the Illinois legislature regarding this guy?

    January 5, 2009 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  14. Linda32

    Delay, delay, delay! LOL, Burris has some hurdles to jump. Hopefully it will last until the next election or Blago being kicked out. I don't see how he thinks he can perform the duties without question considering the person that appointed him.

    January 5, 2009 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  15. Meh

    You are right on the money, Kenneth. Well said!

    January 5, 2009 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  16. Proud American 2

    Yeah and everybody in Florida is good to go. How did Balloting go THIS year?

    January 5, 2009 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  17. Laura, Boston

    The IL Supreme Court really has no choice but to force the Sec. of State to sign the order from the governor. At least for now, Blog is still the governor. He hasn't been impreached, convicted of anything and even though he was indicted that doesn't mean guilty.

    In this country you are innocent until PROVEN guilty. So let Burris go to the Senate and for the next 2 years represent the people of IL. Then it will be up to them if he is re-elected (will then be 73)???

    Burris has done nothing wrong and should not be penalized because the Governor MAY have done something wrong.

    January 5, 2009 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  18. TexAnnie *-*-*-*-*

    jrzshor– go back and re-read the article. The Secretary of the SENATE rejected the certificate because the Illinois Secretary of STATE had not signed it. Two different people.

    January 5, 2009 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  19. The Truth

    wow, more corruption in the democratic party! this just doesnt stop. it just gets better and better when they even start destroying each others political careers. haha i mean i myself am a true conservative, there are very few of us left, very few who still hold true to american values. Ignorant liberals scrutinize Bush for a national debt, but Obama's plans will cause the largest increase in a single year ever, just in his first year of office! does 1.8 trillion dollars sound like an astronomical amount? well, probably because it is. this little appointment has little relevance in the big spectrum of things. the democrats already have a majority in congress, the nation's future has never looked more dismal. another Great Depression? who knows.

    January 5, 2009 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  20. TexAnnie *-*-*-*-*

    There is just something about this whole appointment that doesn't feel right. Blagojevich (yes, I can actually spell it and don't have to resort to using Blago like some lazy people) apparently thought appointing a minority would guarantee acceptance because no one would want to be seen as possibly being bigoted or such. But Burris is just TOO anxious– TOO opportunistic. Something just gives me a suspicious feeling about the whole thing.
    I think Burris is crazy to push so hard for this. It makes him look suspicious. If he wants to run for the seat in 2 years, then let him run. But it appears it wants it GIVEN to him RIGHT now and that just leaves me really uneasy.

    January 5, 2009 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  21. Joyce

    At least one Illinois politician – Secretary of State Jesse White - knows how to play by the rules!

    January 5, 2009 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  22. Change - Yeah Left

    It doesn't matter how clean Burris is. He was nominated by a crook. And he knew the Senate had issues with whomever was to be nominated. Burris has no one to blame but Blago here.

    Good for you Secretary of State of Illinois!!

    January 5, 2009 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  23. pattyr

    This could happen in almost any state. Sorry it is happening in illinois. To the other citizens out there. Maybe it is time to look at what would happen in your state with your elected officials if they were to act like Blago. What happens if your elected official does something illegal? What happens between the time they are charged and being found guilty or innocent in a court of law? My opinion would be to have a better ethics clause somewhere that would suspend their responsibilities and duties if they have charges. It sure didn't take the feds long to suspend his credentials for federal security. Maybe we should follow their lead. Suspending an elected official's clearance to perform their duties.

    Think about it. What happens if an elected official develops dementia or becomes so ill (physically or mentally) that they can not perform their job, but refuse to resign? Or in the case of Blago – is just a sociopath that thinks that laws don't apply to him????

    January 5, 2009 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  24. flybyshoeing

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

    Claire in NW Florida, you are kidding right? Or didn't you live in Florida in 2000. It must be ok to be corrupt if you are a republican.

    January 5, 2009 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  25. David

    I agree with you JM, he needs to take this to court and force the secretary of state's hand. He will win. He is the legitimate selection. The secretary of state needs to be run out at the next election. Maybe someday the citizens will wake up to these politicians and their shenanigans and they'll start putting heads on poles.

    January 5, 2009 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
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