Dems say they won't seat Obama replacement

December 30, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
Senate Democrats said Tuesday they would refuse to seat the man Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich has picked to succeed President-elect Barack Obama, saying that the taint of scandal would follow the new senator to Washington. "Anyone appointed by Gov. Blagojevich cannot be an effective representative of the people of Illinois and, as we have said, will not be seated by the Democratic Caucus," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and his deputy, Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, said in a statement.

Former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris told the Illinois Senate president early Tuesday of Blagojevich's decision to appoint him.

Senate leaders, scattered for the holidays, immediately convened a conference call to respond to what they saw as a sticky situation. Some involved in the call were wary of being seen as denying a black man a seat in a chamber where there are no blacks, according to two officials knowledgeable about the talks who requested anonymity in order to speak freely.

That sensitivity is why the statement includes a section explicitly saying that any "shadow" of impropriety or the Democrats' refusal to seat Burris was a reflection on Blagojevich, not Burris.

"We say this without prejudice toward roland Burris' ability, and we respect his years of public service," the leaders wrote in the statement. "But this is not about M. Burris; it is about the integrity of a governor accused of attempting to sell this United States Senate seat."

Blagojevich denies the charges and has rejected calls for his resignation.

The last time the Senate refused to seat a member was in 1947, when Mississippi Democrat Theodore Bilbo was accused of corruption and bribery, according to Don Ritchie, associate Senate historian.


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