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Reid's blocking of Burris not about race, Reid declares

January 7, 2009 |  5:54 pm

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says it is totally ridiculous for "a lot of people" to suggest that his leadership of the barring of African American Roland Burris from the U.S. Senate and his reported pre-arrest recommendation to Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich to avoid nominating any of three other African Americans to the Barack Obama vacancy is racially driven in any way.

Hear Harry's words for yourself in the video below.

On the jump (click on the "Read more" line) we have a detailed video on yesterday's Capitol Hill Burris circus that sucked much attention away from the happy congressional opening that Reid had sought.

Reid made today's statement as part of a smooth 178- or 179-degree turnaround from his original vow to bar any appointee of fellow Democrat Blagojevich. Remember the letter signed by 50 Democratic  senators rejecting any Blagojevich appointee?

Anyway, today the Nevada senator had gracious words for an earnest Burris, whom he quoted as agreeing on the non-racialness of the controversy. He said Burris would meet Thursday with Illinois legislators, presumably to get his Senate nomination certified by someone other than the cloud-covered governor.

After tomorrow, Reid said, the Senate would be "in a different position to see what we are going to do." He added that he wanted "to do what we can do."

Reid and Illinois' other Democratic senator, Dick Durbin, are clearly attempting to find an escape tunnel out of their own PR mess. Apparently, they've settled on Burris talking to home state legislators and getting the really important signature of state Secretary Jesse White, another Democrat.

Unfortunately, White was on WGN radio in Chicago today, saying his signature wasn't required at all; it's just a ceremonial formality. And the Congressional Black Caucus, which contains no black senators because there aren't any until Burris gets in, unanimously urged accepting the newcomer.

The ever-wise Sam Stein over at Huffington Post reports that Obama aides are also pressing Reid to seat Burris and end this sideshow distraction. While Reid declares that he will not become a mere rubber stamp just for some popular Democratic president, that he doesn't work for the president, he works with him.

Last month it was Senate Leader Reid prohibiting any Illinois seating. Today, according to Reid, it's really going to come down to maybe the Rules Committee but ultimately the Senate itself to decide on seating the 71-year-old Illinois nominee and former comptroller and state attorney general. Ex-Sen. and President-elect Obama today said it was entirely a Senate matter.

Asked today if he'd been outmaneuvered politically, Reid replied, "It's simply not true."

Yesterday, California's influential Sen. Dianne Feinstein broke with Reid's Senate leadership and said Burris should be seated.

So, in other words, Roland Burris will soon be seated.

Non-racial score: Blagojevich 1 Reid 0

-- Andrew Malcolm

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