Report: Burris Will Get Obama Senate Seat

(CBS)
Roland Burris, the man appointed to Barack Obama's Senate seat by embattled Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, will be allowed to take the seat, according to the Associated Press.

Spokespersons for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin are denying the report. (See update below.)

Burris showed up in Washington for yesterday's Senate swearing-in session, but was turned down by Senate Democrats who had previously vowed not to seat anyone appointed by Blagojevich. The governor has been charged with effectively trying to sell the seat and hearings are being held in Illinois over impeaching him.

Now, however, the Senate Democrats "plan to embrace Roland Burris for President-elect Barack Obama's vacant seat," the AP reports.

The stated reason for not seating Burris yesterday was that his certificate had not been signed by the Illinois Secretary of State, Jesse White. As Ben Smith reports, however, White said in a radio interview that "[t]hey could have seated him without my signature," insisting that his signature was simply a "ceremonial" one.

White rallied behind Burris, suggesting the Senate "played a little bit of a game with him," and he suggested he had been made a "fall guy" by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

"I think the world of Roland Burris," White said. "We're the best of friends."

Legal experts have disagreed about whether Reid and his Senate cohorts had legal grounds for turning Burris away. White's comments, however, weakened their case.

There has been speculation in recent days that Reid might agree to seat Burris if Burris would agree not to run for election in 2010, though it is unknown whether such a deal was worked out.

UPDATE: Mr. Obama was just asked about the Burris appointment during his morning press conference. The president-elect did not take a position, saying it was "a Senate matter."

Mr. Obama noted he had known Burris for years, adding: "If he gets seated, then I'm going to work with Roland Burris, just like I work with all the other senators."

UPDATE: CBS Radio's Bob Fuss reports that spokespersons for both Reid and Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin are flatly denying the AP story, stating that it is not true.

UPDATE: Reid and Durbin held a press conference explaining where they believe things stand. While steps still need to be taken before Burris can be seated, the senators signaled that they are open to the prospect. Read more here>.

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