Democratic aides are disputing reports that there is a deal to seat Roland Burris, even as Burris sits behind closed doors negotiating with Majority Leader Harry Reid and Majority Whip Dick Durbin.
The Associated Press reported a deal had been made, but two Senate Democratic aides, in interviews with Politico are disputing the report that there has been a deal. The report is "wrong," said Reid spokesman Jim Manley.
If there is an eventual deal, it would be an extraordinary turnabout by Senate Democrats. But the momentum has been growing toward a deal on Burris, as more Democrats were becoming uncomfortable with the situation and Burris seemed to have serious political and legal momentum. No details of the meeting have been released. Reid, Durbin and Burris were scheduled to meet from 10:30 to 11 a.m. today.
As the critical meeting unfolded, another Democrat, Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, asserted Wednesday that Burris should be seated in the Senate, becoming the second Senate Democrat to publicly break from party leaders on the controversial appointment.
In an interview, Feingold said Democratic arguments that Burris should be denied a seat because he was appointed by the scandal-tainted Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich are weak.
"There's a growing sense that there is a prety flimsy basis to deny what is clearly a legal appointment," said Feingold. "Despite the controversy, we can't go down the road of having essentially a few subjective considerations to decide who gets seated. That would be an affront to states and their laws."
On Tuesday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said not appointing Burris would undermine gubenatorial appointments.
"So I think it's clear that it appears like a glacier at this point that the movement is in the direction of what is the basis for denying this man a Senate seat," Feingold added.
Burris, the 71-year-old black former state legislator, says his appointment is legal despite charges that the governor tried to sell the open Senate seat.