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. Jeff in Illinois

    Thank you SecState.

    Claire in NW Florida, just FYI, we lived under corrupt Republican officials here in Illinois for a LONG time before Blago got elected. Its not about Dems or Reps, its about bad, Anti-American people infiltrating our government, both at the state, and federal levels.

    By "Anti-American", I mean people who act with other than the best interests of the citizens of the United States in mind. Whether that be a corporation (i.e. Cheney – Halliburton), another nation one is loyal to (i.e. Chertoff – Israel), or one's own pockets (i.e. Blago – The Blago Checking Account)

    January 5, 2009 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  2. change in America

    I am African American all them are corrupt in Illinois and the mayor of chicago is also... They should have a open election...This stupid who cares about Burris.......Let Michelle Obama take Barrack senate seat.

    Michelle Obama for seante of Illinois

    January 5, 2009 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  3. John Kozy

    Roland Burris' appointment to the Senate by Governor Blagojevich

    The hypocritical pious posturing of the Senate's leadership over this appointment is sadly laughable. Every Senator sells his seat every time he accepts contributions from special interest lobbies and corporate interests and then votes their points of view. I doubt that any Senator hasn't asked, "What's in it for me?" in response to a lobbyist's request at one time or another, and that is all Blagojevich did. And these pious hypocrites are now frying Burris. Their motto must be, "take the pork but fry the chicken."

    January 5, 2009 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  4. KJ

    oh "muslim seeking justice" SHUT UP... waagh... waghh... waghh...

    that is not the only news story on this planet. it's always all about yourself and those innocent lambs of hamas, isn't it?

    January 5, 2009 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  5. Bell

    I think that Burris should not have excepted the seat because the Govener is only out of jail on bail.

    January 5, 2009 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  6. H-ROD


    January 5, 2009 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  7. Jack3566

    Blago has done something very cunning. And the Democrats are stupid enough to fall in the trap.

    Blago has not been indicted, not been convicted, not been impeached. Therefore, at this minute, his appointments must stand. There is no officially legitimate reason for them not to.

    Every governor appoints hundreds of people to boards and commissions, etc. Are the Democrats going to suggest that ALL of Blago's appointments are illegitimate and must be removed from office? Or is it just Burris?

    So Blago has appointed this apparently squeaky-clean, highly-qualified and respected Black to the senate.

    Rejection of Burris will not be tolerable.

    Take that, Harry Reid and all you Democrats.

    January 5, 2009 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  8. David

    remember it's Harry Reid claiming the right to block Burris because of Gov. Blago's corruption. This from a guy who has somehow remained in power despite his suspect real estate dealings and his well covered-up dealings with the mafia when they ran Vegas.

    January 5, 2009 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  9. CoffeeAddict

    It is unfortunate, having heard this man speak, how egotistical and self-selfing he sounds. Burris has no right to the seat, it should belong to someone selected by the people of Illinois, not the decision of a governor who isn't yet being tried because of doing the Obama administration a favor by waiting until after the President Elect's swearing in ceremony. The Illinois legislature should mandate a special election immediately, and let those who wish to hold office campaign for the people's vote: no more political appointments when so many appointing are neck deep in corruption.

    January 5, 2009 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  10. good, don't let him in

    special election is the way to go, he can run like everyone else

    January 5, 2009 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  11. Mesa Mick

    With the way this moron is acting you would think he's a repuglicon. You know, I'm sticking to my idealogy no matter what is good for my state, the country or the average American citizen.
    Stay home Burris, can't you see your not welcome thanks to Blago. Besides, if you do get seated nobody is gonna work with you in any way, shape or form. Is that your idea of serving the people of IL?

    January 5, 2009 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  12. Kevin in Ohio

    I just love the democrats squirming. They do great running this country the next four years, i'm sure.

    January 5, 2009 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  13. Fred in KY

    This cat Burris is just as shady as Blago and Obama. They all need to be run out of town.

    January 5, 2009 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  14. Erik in Real Pennsylvania

    Article 1, Section 5 of the U.S. Constitution states, "Each House shall be the Judge of the Elections, Returns and Qualifications of its own Members."
    Section 3 says "The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State" and "No person shall be a Senator who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty Years, and been nine Years a Citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an Inhabitant of that State for which he shall be chosen."

    Roland Burris of Illinois documentably meeets these age and residency qualifications, and the Senate acting as "judge" of these qualifications cannot possibly find otherwise.

    Amendment 17 of the U.S. Constitution states: "When vacancies happen in the representation of any State in the Senate, the executive authority of such State shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies." There is no mention of a secretary of state approval being necessary for any appointment .

    Therefore, Roland Burris should be seated tomorrow as the junior Senator of Illinois.

    January 5, 2009 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  15. sam

    is harry ried now gov. of ill.and if blago was so guilty why do they need 90 more days to prove he is?

    January 5, 2009 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  16. Jean2

    Jesse White seems to be one of the very few taking a stand for intergity.

    Fitzgerald can not get his act together and these two clowns are having a field day. What is or who is supplying the fuel for this side show and then adding race?????

    January 5, 2009 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  17. Edgar

    Laura, correction; Blago has NOT even been indicted yet!

    January 5, 2009 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  18. Hammer

    The Democratic Party in all it's glory!
    And these people are in control of the government at a time like this asking me to trust them? You gotta be kidding!

    January 5, 2009 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  19. Edgar

    All these stupid, asinine comment that people make are unbelievable. Burris "should be ashamed", "tainted", "he shouldn't have accepted", "he's an oppotunist." NONE of this is a legal/constitutional argument to deny him a senate seat. EVEN if it's all true. Why are we even talking about them when it comes to whether he should be seated?

    January 5, 2009 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  20. cal

    Well why in the hell doesn't she sign it? I bet here is more in her closet than in Burris.

    January 5, 2009 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  21. Robin

    To Blago and Burris Haters:

    How naive are you? Do you really think that a Republican prosecutor who "Libby" and refuse to go after Bush, Cheney and Rove is any better. Please!!! The Governor has been under investigation for three years and that's why Obama did have him speak at the Democratic Convention. Please remove your emotions, because there is nothing illegal about Burris appointment. I see if he appointed someone involved in the investigation; however, he did not. Has Blago been convicted? It's ironic that the prosecutor has requested 90 more days for his case. THE REPUBLICANS ARE LOOKING FORWARD TO 2012 AND THIS IS ONE OF THE ISSUES THAT THEY WILL CAMPAIGN ON.

    January 5, 2009 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  22. RJ, Phoenix

    Last time I checked, Blago hasn't been convicted of anything yet.
    So his appointment is perfectly legal.
    The Ill. Sec. of State has no legal grounds to refuse signing the document.

    January 5, 2009 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  23. Lilarose in Bandon, Oregon

    Burris has just sealed his "legacy."

    It won't be for nearly 20 years of service to Illinois, it will be that he accepted a congressional appointment from Gov. Slobovich of Illinois, who has been arrested.

    You know the story.

    January 5, 2009 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  24. Robin

    How naive are you? Do you really think that a Republican prosecutor who prosecuted "Libby" and refuse to go after Bush, Cheney and Rove is any better. Please!!! The Governor has been under investigation for three years and that's why Obama did have him speak at the Democratic Convention. Please remove your emotions, because there is nothing illegal about Burris appointment. I see if he appointed someone involved in the investigation; however, he did not. Has Blago been convicted? It's ironic that the prosecutor has requested 90 more days for his case. THE REPUBLICANS ARE LOOKING FORWARD TO 2012 AND THIS IS ONE OF THE ISSUES THAT THEY WILL CAMPAIGN ON.

    January 5, 2009 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  25. Carole

    , or is it Joe the Plumber, the last eight are so great. The countryKevin is in CRISIS mode.

    You repub bloggers kill me. It is like an alcoholic "Hi, I am Kevin and part of the failed Republican Party and Presidency and I look stupid making fun of someone who has not even unpacked his socks. "

    Hi, Kevin!!!!!

    January 5, 2009 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
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