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Democrats to grant Burris few privileges

Blagojevich pick for Senate seat faces restrictions

Associated Press / January 3, 2009
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WASHINGTON - Democratic leaders plan to grant few if any privileges next week to Roland Burris, the man picked by embattled Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich to replace President-elect Barack Obama in the US Senate, even if he arrives on Capitol Hill with the right credentials.

Senate officials involved in the tangle of legal and logistical planning said yesterday that a Democrat will object to Burris being duly sworn with the rest of his class, and propose that his credentials be reviewed by the Rules Committee.

The only way Burris will be allowed on the floor is if he possesses a certification of appointment signed personally by his embattled patron, Blagojevich, and Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White, who has refused to sign. Burris would then be treated as a senator-elect, which by tradition means he'll be allowed on the Senate floor without voting or speaking privileges - and he wouldn't be granted a desk, according to the officials. They requested anonymity because they weren't authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

The man charged with letting people through the door of the chamber, Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Terrance Gainer, said he expects the two sides to work out a deal before the new Senate convenes on Tuesday.

Gainer has known Burris since their days in Illinois law enforcement, when Burris was attorney general and Gainer was the director of the state police.

Privately, Democrats have been busily charting out the choreography for Burris's arrival, conscious of the racial sensitivity involved with blocking him from becoming the Senate's only black member.

And there is significant debate over whether the Senate has any legal standing to turn away a person who meets the Constitution's qualifications for serving in the chamber.

A spokesman for Blagojevich said there's no plan for the governor to attend the proceedings.

Back home, he could be facing an impeachment vote as early as next week in connection with the corruption charges that include allegations he schemed to swap the Senate seat for profit.

The Illinois State House, which had not been set to reconvene until Jan. 12, has bumped up its schedule and will meet several days next week.

A spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan said the chamber may vote on a recommendation from the special committee studying whether Blagojevich should be impeached.

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