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Now, Durbin sees new impasse on Roland Burris Senate seat

January 10, 2009 |  6:44 am

The Senate's no. 2 Democrat Dick Durbin, governor-nominated Roland Burris and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Illinois in happier times for the cameras

The never-gonna-happen-everything's-open-for-negotiation-no-you-can't-well-maybe-you-can seating of Roland Burris in Barack Obama's empty U.S. Senate seat now seems back to the never-gonna-happen stage.

In Chicago last night, Illinois' other senator, Dick Durbin, No. 2 Senate Democrat after Happy Harry Reid, said that Friday's state court refusal to order Secretary of State Jesse White to certify Burris' nomination means that the 71-year-old Burris may well be at least 72 before he's allowed to sit in the back of the Senate. If ever.

Durbin now asserts that no one can fill the vacant seat until the governor of Illinois, Rod "I did nothing wrong" Blagojevich, is removed from office and his successor (presumably fellow Democrat Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn) names a senator.

See the lieutenant governor's comments in the video just below and the governor's reaction to the impeachment vote below that by clicking on the "Read more" line below.

White has refused to sign the nomination, citing federal allegations that Blagojevich was auctioning off his nomination. However, White also has said his signature is a ceremonial formality and isn't necessary. But Durbin and Reid, whose opposition to Burris drew mumbles that it might really be about Burris being African American, have clung to the ceremonial formality as an impassable obstacle to seating the veteran politician and former state attorney general who's never lost to a Republican.

"At this point we've clearly reached an impasse," Durbin told reporters at his Chicago office. He suggested the Senate seat might even remain vacant and Illinois' Senate representation halved until Blagojevich is removed from office and the lieutenant governor takes over and makes a new appointment.

This, plus the ongoing impeachment struggle in Illinois, seems likely to prolong the internal Democratic struggle past the historic inauguration of Obama, who's sent a message to Reid and Durbin to get the distraction settled. A Blagojevich impeachment trial could start in the state Senate next week.

The U.S. Senate, Durbin now says, cannot possibly waive a 125-year-old rule requiring the signatures of both the governor and the secretary of state on any appointment.

"This appointment meets the qualifications required by the U.S. Senate of all gubernatorial appointees to fill vacated seats," Burris countered in a statement after the Friday state Supreme Court ruling. "I am confident I have cooperated with all the requests of the U.S. Senate, and I expect they will validate my credentials and seat me in a timely manner."

Now, Illinois Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan, who represented White in the case, is back in the fray, according to the Swamp's Mark Silva. She says it's clear now that White "is not the roadblock to Mr. Burris' appointment to the U.S. Senate. It remains within the power of the U.S. Senate to seat Mr. Burris."

Then she added, "They should do so immediately."

Both Burris and Durbin will appear on Sunday morning talk shows (See The Ticket show lineup posted every Saturday noon Pacific time.). President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney also will be on the programs, although they haven't been blamed for the Blagojevich scandal. Yet.

--Andrew Malcolm

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Photo credit: Susan Walsh / Associated Press

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