Reid says Burris might ultimately get seat

January 7, 2009 11:23:34 AM PST
Changing course, Senate Democrats emerged from a meeting with Senate appointee Roland Burris on Wednesday and set forth the legal steps under which they're willing to welcome him into the Senate in President-elect Barack Obama's vacated spot. Praising the former state attorney general, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the Senate is awaiting a court ruling in a case that tests whether the signature of the Illinois secretary of state is needed for Burris to take the seat. He suggested that would be a step toward seating Burris.

"We don't have a problem with him as an individual," Reid said at a news conference in which he dramatically softened his party's opposition to seating any appointee of embattled Gov. Rod Blogojevich. Federal prosecutors arrested the governor last month and accused him of trying to sell Obama's Senate seat.

Democratic Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, who also met with Burris, said he hoped the legal matters would be resolved "so we can fill all the vacancies and have a full complement of the Senate."

Like Reid, Obama has opposed the seating of any Blogojevich appointee. But shortly before the Reid-Durbin news conference, Obama told reporters Burris' case "is a Senate matter."

"But I know Roland Burris," Obama added. "He's from my home state. I think he's a fine public servant."

The pleasantries and complaints were a far cry from the he-can't-be-seated rhetoric that came from the Senate Democratic caucus a week ago when the governor shocked the party and nominated Burris, who would be the Senate's only black member now that Obama has departed.

Neither Durbin nor Reid guaranteed Burris would be seated but the majority leader said there almost certainly would be a full Senate vote on it.

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