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Mr. Burris Goes to Washington

By Hunter Clauss in News on Jan 5, 2009 6:10PM

burris.jpg Roland Burris heads off to Capital Hill today and the fireworks have already begun. The secretary of the senate, Nancy Erickson, today rejected Burris’s appointment certification because it didn’t include Secretary of State Jesse White’s signature as required. Without the certification, Burris will be barred from entering the Senate floor. Burris yesterday said he hoped his appointment would go smoothly as he spoke to hundreds gathered at New Covenant Baptist Church. “I am now the junior senator from the state of Illinois,” he said, only this time not referring to himself in the royal we. He added that he hopes critics won’t get in the way of what the “Lord ordained.”

While Burris spoke from the pulpit, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was on “Meet the Press” and said that he was open to negotiations with Burris. Senate leaders are expected to meet with Burris a day after the new session begins on Tuesday. All sides have made indications that they don’t want any theatrics as the new Congress convenes tomorrow.

Not accompanying Burris is Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who will stay in Chicago instead. Blagojevich’s acting chief of staff, Clayton Harris III, traveled to Washington and presented Burris’s certificate of appointment despite Sec. of State White's refusal to sign it. White’s move gives more time for the possibility of Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn stepping up to the No. 1 spot and making his own Senate pick. Burris has filed a petition with the Illinois Supreme Court to force White to certify his appointment.

As Burris heads off to Washington, state lawmakers are gathering in Springfield this week for a possible vote to impeach Blagojevich. But state Rep. John Fritchey told WGN-AM 720 that the timing of the vote could make things complicated. That’s because a new General Assembly will be sworn-in next week, which means that the House might have to redo an impeachment vote if a Senate trial does not quickly follow. “Procedurally, you may have Gov. Blagojevich not only be the first governor impeached in Illinois but be the first governor to be impeached twice within a period of a week,” Fritchey said.

If the General Assembly fails to act quickly on the impeachment, the U.S. Senate could defer Burris’s appointment to the Senate Rules Committee, which would conduct an extensive and time-consuming investigation into whether the appointment was corruption free. That slow process would further buy more time for Blagojevich’s possible impeachment and Quinn’s own rival appointment.

Let's hope Burris' ticket to Washington is round-trip.

Photo by AP.