January 6th, 2009
12:28 PM ET
14 years ago

Cleaver: This cannot be a 'black seat'

(CNN) - Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, the new vice chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, said Tuesday President-elect Barack Obama's vacant Senate seat should not viewed as 'the black seat.'

“Mr. Burris will be seated or won’t be seated on the basis of what happens in a court. I don’t think it’s in the people of Illinois’ interests for us to color that seat," Cleaver told reporters on Capitol Hill. "That seat can’t be the black seat. If that happens we begin to lose the progress we made.”

Those comments appear at odds with views of Rep. Bobby Rush, who has implored Senate Democrats to seat Burris because there are currently no African-American members of the Senate, and called the currently all-white chamber the "the last bastion of plantation politics."

soundoff (113 Responses)
  1. Chris - Orlando, FL

    Thank you Bobby Rush for playing Blagojevich's game and making this about race rather than about corruption. Bravo! Thankfully we have African American leaders like Barack Obama and Emanuel Cleaver to remind us that not everything is about race and that not all African American leaders are so myopic.

    January 6, 2009 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |

    Of course this is a black seat. Bobby Rush said so. The Congressional Black Caucus has said so. So just stop pretending that it is not. Do we really want the US Senate to have NO African-American members? It does not matter whether Burris is qualified or paid Blagojevich for the seat. We MUST have this seat remain an African-American seat.

    January 6, 2009 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  3. TCM

    wow...maybe we should replace all members with all blacks...what would they whine about then?

    cherrystrawberry – I like your post....qualified first, color coincidental.....

    January 6, 2009 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  4. SAW

    The only way to shed the burden of racism is to stop setting the races apart by talking like Jessie Jackson... or is the black community secretly disappointed that they've suddenly taken another step towards equality and a step away from being oh-so-different?

    January 6, 2009 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  5. But it is.....

    this is all a distraction-the real deal was made between Obama and Blago--as long a Blago put a black in the Senate, Obama will pardon Blago when the time comes-

    People of Illinois have been duped again--

    Just watch-Burris WILL be seated-

    January 6, 2009 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  6. Frank, Dayton, Ohio

    Burris' appointment is tainted by his association with the governor. It is not a race issue, and Bobby Rush should be censured for trying to make it so with his ill-conceived comments.

    I hope the Senate sticks by its guns by not seating Burris. It's not a legal issue, as some have suggested, requiring Blagojevich to "have his day in court." It's a political issue to be decided by the Constitutionally proper authority–the United States Senate, as the judge of the qualifications of its own members. I hope the Senate does not "remedy" this situation by doing something illegal such as seatng Burris but making him promise not to run for seat in 2010.

    January 6, 2009 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  7. Oh! The Irony

    This black man agrees with Rep. Cleaver.

    Let's just hope Jesse and Al stay away from this...please! No, really, PLEASE!

    January 6, 2009 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  8. a new year

    what's the point of having laws if you can break them just because you don't like whats going on, burris must be seated, if not then we will set america back to the way it was in the 60s, grow up and inforce your on laws.

    January 6, 2009 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  9. Amber

    Welcome to the Obama Show:

    You're going to get nodes on your vocal cords from all that shouting. I expected "OH THE HUMANITY!!! DOGS AND CATS LIVING TOGETHER!!!" at the end of your rant.

    Only 14 more days my friend until President Barack Hussein Obama is our President. Say it with me: Barack Hussein Obama.

    January 6, 2009 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  10. Ms. Johnson, Pearland,Texas

    Mr. Cleaver, is always interjecting something against Black candidates as he did against Obama. Could this be because he so resented his brother Eldridge? Whether anyone wants to admit it or not it is a shame that the Senate lacks so little diversity. Candidates have run but have not been able to garner the statewide support. If Mr. Cleaver feels what he believes is correct I look forward to him running and losing the senate seat in Missouri. Make a bold move get out of his comfortable congressional seat.

    January 6, 2009 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  11. liberal white female


    Let me see if I have this correct. You were born in to a white trash family that eschewed education, think family renunions are where you meat girls, and all wear pointy hats at times. Both kinds of course, the dunce and the kkk.

    Are you a follower of the NZ rugby team or is your grammer just bad... probably the latter.

    January 6, 2009 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  12. Get real

    That is what you say, but let this guy be a white senator and all hell will break loose- from Rev. Al and Jesse, and all the race pimps. I'm still waiting to hear the apology to the innocent LaCrosse team.

    January 6, 2009 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  13. setys

    I am not happy that Mr. Buris ignored the pending charges against the governor and accepted that appointment. As African American, that seat should not be view as a black seat. A qualified candidate should be selected to fill that seat.

    The governor intentionally picked his selection due to his own motives for racial sentiment. Mr Buris also decided that being black, in addition that there are no other blacks in the Senate will entitle him easily to that seat.

    I am very disappointed that Mr. Buris was at the Senate today. I am glad he was denied entrance.

    January 6, 2009 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  14. REG in AZ

    Bobby Rush's comments and position crying 'racism' are really so ridiculous as to make one wonder what his real motivation is. Burris, by bucking everyone and going against all rational logic, in seeking and accepting the nomination simply asked for the controversy and literally perpetuated the problems. It would seem likely that Burris felt that he had no chance of obtaining the senate position otherwise and chose to then accept it with all of the problems involved. That alone should make him unacceptable!

    January 6, 2009 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  15. Cali Mike

    Finally, common sense. There are no black seats or white seats. Who cares what is best for the Democratic Party or Republican Party? There should be no "quota" for Latinos in the presidential Cabinet.

    Shouldn't it be what is best for the United States?

    Please America. Vote out any politician in office over 12 years, Make them find a real job. Give President Obama your support and chance to make our nation great again. He's trying his best for us and mostly succeeding in spite of the opposition.

    January 6, 2009 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  16. Mike, Syracuse NY

    Why is there still a 'Black Caucus'? Wouldn't many be offended if someone formed a White Caucus? For that matter why is there an NAACP and not an NAAWP? Having a 'black seat' is just a logical extension of the entitlement philosophy engendered by programs like Affirmative Action. Hey businesses have had to meet 'quotas' for years regardless of qualifications, why not Congress? It couldn't possibly be good to have the best qualified people regardless of race could it? I'm certainly not an Obama supporter; but at least he kept the race card pretty much buried in the deck. However, contrary to cherrystrawberry's indignation at the concept, many blacks did vote for Obama due to race. Most would have probably voted for any Democrat, but more blacks voted than would have voted in previous elections just to vote for Obama, and many black conservatives admitted to being torn over voting for Obama or not. Why isn't that racism too? You note that many people call anti-Obama bloggers racist as well. Well, new flash, the vast majority of those who voted McCain did so because he's the one who was actually QUALIFIED. It is heartening to see many self-identified AA's calling for Burris to step aside, or for Reid to refuse to seat him.

    January 6, 2009 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  17. Nebraskan

    Burris legally and legitimately obtained a senate seat. Now the Illinois Secretary of State is refusing to cooperate. How does Burris come out the bad guy?

    January 6, 2009 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  18. Ellie

    BLACK..... BLACK.... BLACK...

    Geeez, I think we ALL get the Mr. Burris is BLACK....

    So the HELL what? African Americans know that there are qualified blacks and they are non-qualified blacks. This is NOT about Mr. Burris being black. It's about Mr. Burris NOT setting the record straight by stating he would ONLY accept the Senate seat with approval by the Chicago Senate AND the Secretary of State. There are checks and balances in the system to prevent a CORRUPT AND DIRTY Governor from snow-balling the system. Politics is a dirty DOG world, so what else is new?

    Mr. Burris came to Washington to CAUSE ALL THE CHAOS he can. That was his INTENT from the start, he knew before he left Chicago that he would NOT be seated and yet he ignored the warning. So why the hell is everyone so shocked and surprised?

    Mr. Burris was NEVER elected to a Senate Seat, WHY NOT? He ran Five times and LOST. There should be a reason why the people of Chicago did NOT elect him or find him to be the best candidate.

    If Mr. Burris was Honorable he would have stayed in Chicago and worked towards a amicable solution with the Senate and the Secretary of State. Bottom line, but instead he chose to play "shot gun" and play circus ring leader by coming to Washington. He's acting like he's the VICTIM when he's really the ring leader!!!

    Mr. Burris, we are NOT stupid. We know the deal. ENOUGH ALREADY.

    January 6, 2009 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  19. richard rohde

    Some good stuff in here in these posts (Proud American didn't call anyone an idiot). Burris is the Senator from Illinois, the failure of the Illinois Secy of State to sign the certification is illegal.

    The more correct thing to do would be to somehow force an election and let the people decide, but this is not going to happen, So seat Burris and let fill the seat for 2 years when an election can be held.

    January 6, 2009 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  20. John in Ohio

    Applause X1000000 for Representative Cleaver.

    When Bobby Rush said that the content of a man's character and the extent of his abilities don't matter, but skin color is what matters, he spit on the entire civil rights movement. He cheapened the sacrifice of everyone from the Tuskegee Airmen to MLK and beyond. If Roland Burris is eventually seated, it should be because he is Roland Burris, not because he is Token Black Guy.

    January 6, 2009 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  21. quinn54

    the seat suppose to go to Jesse Jackson JR . Fitzgerald cut the investigation off prematurly to protect him and Big Daddy

    January 6, 2009 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  22. Cynthia

    The appointment is legal. They have not charged BOJ with anything and have not impeached him. That is their fault for not doing so, but how can you when a person just said somthing that he did not act upon!!!!

    January 6, 2009 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  23. Andres

    I agree with Rep. Cleaver, however I think that is it still important for us to have representation of EVERYONE in the Senate. Granted that, as far as I know, there are currently no Asians, there are 3 (soon to be 2) Latinos and, after all this Burris appointment mess settles, there should be 1 African-American. Regardless of how tainted Blagojevich may be, that should not reflect on his appointee. Roland Burris is a well-respected man who has served the people of his state well as the State Comptroller and Attorney General for many years, and the Illinois Sec. of State is just stalling the appointment unconstitutionally by refusing to sign the Certificate of Appointment. I feel that Mr. Burris would do a great job in the Senate serving the people of Illinois for the next 2 years. Yes, I think Blagojevich should resign, but Burris's appointment to the U.S. Senate should not be dependent on that, because Blago is legally innocent until proven guilty. On another note, a second black U.S. senator was almost elected in 2006, from Tennessee, but lost the election by only 6 points (47% of the vote). Rep. Harold Ford, Jr., of Memphis, was a black Democrat and would have been the first ever black Senator from the South since the era of Reconstruction. Now THAT would have been a shock. A so-called "black seat" in Illinois should be far less surprising, having already been occupied by Carol Moseley Braun and Barack Obama. Oh, and you people who keep saying the "Chicago Senate" are annoying the crap out of me. It is either the Illinois State Senate or the U.S. Senate, and I don't know to which you are referring, b/c Chicago is a city, not a state. There is much more to Illinois than just Chicago; Roland Burris grew up in southern Illinois, for example.

    January 6, 2009 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  24. Darlene

    It's funny that not having many AA's in the U.S. Senate wasn't a problem until PE Obama was elected..what about all the other states? Since "everyone" is so worried about there not being an African American in the Senate...why don't they work on grooming electable candidates to run in 2010?

    I am AA, born & raised, and live in Chicago. This is the craziest, most embarrasing situation I have ever seen. Unfortunately, the Democrat leaders have no one to blame but themselves. I'm sorry that Mr. Burris feels that he is owed something. I personally think he should have turned down the offer...but based on all the interviews he's doing, I have a feeling that he is having the time of his life.

    January 6, 2009 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  25. Hilda

    I agree with Rep. Cleaver. I resent the fact that Rep Rush is injecting race into this issue and as a black person I take it as an insult. I think we have made tremendous strides to get to this point and it is so absurd to hear race being thrown into it by Rep Burris, some members of the media and some political pandits.

    January 6, 2009 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
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