January 15th, 2009
03:15 PM ET
14 years ago

Burris sworn in as junior senator from Illinois

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/01/15/art.burrisin0115.gi.jpg caption="Roland Burris was sworn in to the Senate Thursday afternoon."]
WASHINGTON (CNN) - Veteran Illinois politician Roland Burris was sworn in as the junior U.S. senator from Illinois on Thursday afternoon, following an extended political battle to claim the seat.

Watch: Burris becomes a senator

After being denied entry into the hallowed chamber last week, Burris was warmly welcomed Thursday by Senate colleagues, including Majority Leader Harry Reid.

"Whatever complications surrounded his appointment, we made it clear from the beginning, both publicly and privately, that our concern was never with Mr. Burris," Reid said. "I didn't have the pleasure of meeting Mr. Burris until last week. I found now-Senator Burris to be engaging, gracious, and he was very firm in his commitment to become a good and effective United States senator.

"Given the uncertainty around his appointment, all of his statements and actions, again both publicly and privately, reflected his strong character that will serve him well as be begins his service to the people of Illinois," Reid added.

Some Senate Democrats had argued that Burris should not be seated because he was appointed by embattled Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich to fill the junior senator position vacated by President-elect Barack Obama.

Blagojevich was arrested in December on federal corruption charges. Among other allegations, federal prosecutors said the governor tried to trade or sell Obama's vacant Senate seat.

The governor was impeached on corruption charges by the Illinois House of Representatives, and now faces a trial in the state Senate.

Before his swearing-in, Burris spoke of vindication.

"It's called faith. And we knew that we were in the right. The law was on our side. And all we had to do was prevail," he said of his fight to claim his seat.

"As a matter of fact, I will go to work this evening. There will be votes taken tonight and tomorrow. The family will be coming back tonight (to Chicago). But I will have to go to work," Burris said as he left Chicago's O'Hare airport Thursday morning with his wife.

The senior senator from Illinois, Dick Durbin, also welcomed Burris to the Senate, speaking of his rise and their shared origins from railroad families.

"Roland Burris paved the way for so many to follow, including the man who will be sworn in as president next Tuesday, Barack Obama," Durbin said. "He's held two our state's highest elected offices. He was Illinois' first African-American comptroller, as well our first African-American attorney general. Roland Burris is a good man and a dedicated public servant. And that's why he's returned to public life."

In refusing to seat Burris last week, the U.S. Senate cited a 125-year Senate rule requiring the secretary of state's signature to certify an appointment. Illinois Secretary of State Jessie White refused to sign the certificate due to the controversy.

But the Illinois Supreme Court ruled Friday that White's signature was not necessary for the certificate to be valid.

Filed under: Roland Burris
soundoff (20 Responses)
  1. Rob

    He will definitely be a better senator than Al Franken. But then again, I could probably say that about 250 million Americans.

    January 15, 2009 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  2. Chris Fraser

    Glad to see that .. I'm sure he will do a great job

    January 15, 2009 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  3. Laverne

    His wife looks emotional. It is funny how things in life turn out. The same man who defeated him twice for governor of the state of Illinois is the same person who ended up appointing him to a position who himself wanted. Congrats Mr. Burris, do right by your constituents and state.

    January 15, 2009 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  4. Rob Stumpf

    Reid is such a coward, it's unbelievable. As soon as somebody calls his bluff, he crumbles like a stale cookie.

    If he was acting on principle here, boy, his principles can sure change at the drop of a hat.

    January 15, 2009 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  5. Griff

    Plane Crash... 20yrs ago... I remember this a simmilar News...
    You have the History CNN..

    January 15, 2009 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  6. Lorna, NY

    He is shameless!

    January 15, 2009 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  7. tess

    burris – welcome to the chamber of fools – you probably will fit right in and continue the downward spiral for dems – can't wait for them all to hit bottom, as they will, and watch the media try to report it as great!

    January 15, 2009 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  8. Hammer

    Reid said never.

    January 15, 2009 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  9. Logical Thinker

    Congratulations Senator Burris. Well done.

    January 15, 2009 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  10. j williamson

    Republicans are already doing a happy dance over this – an easy seat to pick off in 2010. If Dems had an open primary today, I doubt Burris would even be a close winner.

    January 15, 2009 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  11. Mary

    So once again the people of Illinois are ignored.

    January 15, 2009 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  12. Geeque - Chicago,IL


    January 15, 2009 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  13. greg

    thats all..............

    January 15, 2009 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  14. gt

    Blago 1 ,,, Reid and the senate 0.....pityful !!!

    January 15, 2009 06:12 pm at 6:12 pm |
  15. Lisa Vilen

    Keep the Bible warm–Al Franken will be next!

    January 15, 2009 06:24 pm at 6:24 pm |
  16. Tim

    Send in the remaining clowns.

    January 15, 2009 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  17. The Voice of Accountability

    Don't backpedal now Mr. Reid. You miscalculated and looked foolish in the process. This was a battle you should have never tee'd up.

    You want to do something useful? Strip Lieberman of his chairmanship role.

    January 15, 2009 06:28 pm at 6:28 pm |
  18. Tim

    His oath was "I'm coo-coo for Coco Puffs, I'm coo-coo for Coco Puffs".

    Our country is a joke.

    January 15, 2009 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
  19. Erika, KS

    Reid is not alone. Pelosi gives in too. These two have accomplished nothing in the past two years.

    January 15, 2009 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  20. Salt & Pepper

    Go Burris! Have a very happy run! I'm glad you made it.

    January 15, 2009 06:49 pm at 6:49 pm |