Burris: ‘My Gosh, That Really Should Have Been Me'

Burris' meeting with Senate leaders may have edged him closer to seat

Roland Burris is back from Washington, D.C, and Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's pick to replace Barack Obama in the U.S. Senate says the only thing he regrets is not taking the oath with the newest members of the 111th Congress.

Burris told reporters when he returned Wednesday to Chicago's Midway Airport that he had a "great meeting" with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Sen. Dick Durbin.
He says his only regret from the whirlwind two-day trip is not being able to walk on the Senate floor to be sworn in with the newest legislators.
Burris says he watched the ceremony on television and thought, "My gosh, that really should have been me."

While there is no official decision in Washington about the Burris' future, it's beginning to look more possible than it did Tuesday.

"Very shortly I will have the opportunity to (represent the people of Illinois) as the junior senator from the fifth largest state in this great country of ours. Isn't it great?" he said with a large smile after meeting with Reid and Durbin.

He dodged a question about whether he would run for re-election in two years if the appointment goes through.
"Let me get my Senate legs under me first," he said.

Earlier Wednesday, Democratic leaders said they were abiding by an old rule that Senate appointees had to be approved by the a state's governor and secretary of state, but the Illinois Supreme Court could clear up the issue. 

Durbin said the Senate has "never waived" on the ruling dating back to 1917, which requires both signatures for any appointed senator.

Reid said the state Supreme Court would have to rule on whether the appointment is valid without the signature of Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White. Attorneys for Burris have asked the court to move quickly on the issue. 

Reid also said he hopes "it happens sooner rather than later," and speculated that the situation may be more clear by the end of the day.

"There's going to come a time when the entire Senate is going to have to act on this," Reid said of Burris' appointment.

White has refused to sign the appointment letter that Blagojevich gave to Burris, saying he won't sign onto any such decision by a governor under legal siege.
White said Wednesday says he's being unfairly blamed by senators for not seating Burris, saying Burris could have been accepted there without his signature.
"My signature is not required," he said. "My signature is mostly ceremonial, rather than being a point of law."

Emphasizing that they have no problem with Burris as an individual, Senate leaders Reid and Durbin spoke positively at a Wednesday press conference after meeting with the senate appointee. 

"He's a very nice man," Reid said, and Sen. Durbin referred to his long-standing acquaintance with the former Illinois attorney general. 

"We'll always be friends. I'll always respect him," Durbin said.

Both senators said that the morning's discussion included clarification about racial concerns not being a factor in the actions of the Senate.

"I want to make it clear that this controversy has nothing to do with race," Durbin told reporters at news conference, adding that Burris assured him that he shared that perspective.

Both senate leaders said that Burris' appearance before the Illinois Impeachment Committee on Thursday would present the Senate with necessary information regarding the appointee's dealings with the embattled governor.  That, combined with the expected Supreme Court ruling, may open the door for the Illinois senate designate.

The President-elect has declined to support giving his vacated seat to Burris. Obama told a news conference on Wednesday that the decision is one for the Senate to make.
Obama said he's known Burris for years and would be happy to "work with him" if he ultimately gets seated, but that he can't go further than that.

Blagojevich shocked Democratic leaders by appointing Burris to finish the final two years of Obama's six-year term in the Senate just three weeks after the governor was arrested on corruption charges in what federal prosecutors said was a scheme to sell or trade Obama's vacated Senate seat to the highest bidder,
Blagojevich denies the accusations and has yet to be indicted. There has been no indication that Burris was involved in the alleged scheme, and he has not been accused of any wrongdoing. Democrats have repeatedly said the issue is Blagojevich, not Burris' qualifications.

In a piece of pure political theater, Burris tried and failed to take Obama's seat Tuesday .
He marched into the Capitol, declaring himself "the junior senator from the state of Illinois," and asked Secretary of the Senate Nancy Erickson to accept a certification of his appointment signed by Blagojevich. Erickson refused, saying it lacked Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White's signature and the state seal.
"Our credentials were rejected by the secretary of the Senate," said Timothy W. Wright III, an attorney for Burris. "We were not allowed to be placed in the record book. We were not allowed to proceed to the floor for purposes of taking oath.  All of which we think was improperly done and is against the law of this land."

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who chairs the Rules Committee, told reporters Tuesday evening that Burris should be seated.
"If you don't seat Mr. Burris, it has ramifications for gubernatorial appointments all over America," the California Democrat said. "Mr. Burris is a senior, experienced politician. He has been attorney general, he has been comptroller, and he is very well-respected. I am hopeful that this will be settled."

Burris was considering a federal lawsuit to force Senate Democrats to seat him, but that idea seemed to have evaporated by Wednesday. 

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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