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Burris' Status Still In Flux

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

In a late morning press conference, however, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin said that no decision had yet been made.

Reid said that three steps need to be taken before Burris can, potentially, be seated. The first involves that fact that the Illinois secretary of state, Jesse White, did not sign the certificate that would have allowed Burris to enter the Senate.

Burris showed up in Washington for yesterday's Senate swearing-in session, but Senate Democrats refused to seat him, citing the lack of signature.

"We have a situation here, that we've had a rule in effect since 1884 in the Senate, that for a person to be appointed by a governor, you have to have the signature of the governor and the secretary of state," Reid said.

The question of whether White must sign the document is now before the Illinois Supreme Court; Reid and Durbin predicted a resolution soon.

If the court rules that White's signature is not needed, it will cause problems for the Senate, as it would be highly unlikely Senate would waive their rules to accept a certificate with only one signature.

Interestingly, White told a radio station that the Senate could "have seated him without my signature," insisting that his signature was simply a "ceremonial" one.

If White signs the document, Reid said, the next step involves clearing up whether Burris had any improper involvement with Blagojevich, who has been charged with effectively trying to sell the seat. Hearings are soon to be held in Illinois over impeaching the governor, and Senate Democrats had previously vowed not to seat anyone appointed by him.

Durbin noted that Burris "has submitted...an affidavit that explains most of the circumstances" and noted that Burris will answer questions from Republicans and Democrats before the Blagojevich Impeachment Committee tomorrow afternoon at 3 pm.

"The other issue that I think is important is that Roland Burris appears to be candid and forthright," Reid said. "...he's not trying to avoid any responsibility, and trying to hide anything."

Once those two steps are taken, Durbin said, the Senate Rules Committee will review the situation. That could take weeks. If the process gets that far, the full chamber would then likely debate the matter and then vote on whether Burris should take the seat.

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

Mr. Obama noted that knows Burris, adding: "If he gets seated, then I'm going to work with Roland Burris, just like I work with all the other senators to make sure that the people of Illinois and the people of the country are served." (

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Both Reid and Durbin stressed during their press conference that Burris had played down the race issue. Burris would be the only African-American in the Senate, and when his appointment was announced Illinois Rep. Bobby Rush suggested that senators would not want to oppose him for that reason.

"A lot of people tried to make this a racial issue, but Roland Burris has not, and will not," Reid said.

"He obviously is a very engaging, extremely nice man. He presents himself well," added Reid, who met with Burris for the first time this morning.

A senior Democratic Congressional aide, meanwhile, told Huffington Post that aides to Mr. Obama "contacted senior Senate Democrats and suggested that they reverse course and accept Gov. Rod Blagojevich's controversial appointment."