Blagojevich to appoint Burris to Senate seat: report
Tuesday, Dec 30, 2008 7:14PM UTC
By Andrew Stern and Karen Pierog
CHICAGO (Reuters) - Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich will appoint Democratic former state Attorney General Roland Burris to the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama, the Chicago Tribune reported on Tuesday.
Blagojevich, who was arrested on December 9 on corruption charges including trying to peddle Obama's seat for favors, will hold a news conference at 2 p.m. CST (2000 GMT).
The governor's office would not comment on the report, and Burris could not be reached.
Blagojevich, 52, has denied the corruption charges and branded the impeachment effort under way in the state legislature a political lynch mob.
He has defied calls from party leaders, including Obama, that he resign. U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid wrote Blagojevich shortly after the charges were filed, warning him against making an appointment. It was unclear if the Senate would attempt to block the appointment; aides said Democratic leaders would issue a statement later in the day.
The Democrats will be in control of the U.S. Senate with at least 57 seats in the 100-seat chamber when Congress reconvenes on January 6. Still in limbo are Minnesota's undecided Senate race, as well as Obama's Senate seat in Illinois.
The governor's lawyer said last week Blagojevich would refrain from making the Senate appointment.
"It's a very shrewd political move on the governor's part," said political analyst Don Rose. "The Senate has said it won't accept anybody that he proposes, but here they've come up with an African-American with very deep roots in the black community."
Burris, 71, was the first African-American elected to statewide office in Illinois in 1978 when he won the job as state comptroller, and was the state's attorney general from 1991 to 1995.
In 1984, he lost the U.S. Senate Democratic primary to Paul Simon, and was defeated a decade later in a run for governor. He also made an unsuccessful bid to be mayor of Chicago.
He is an attorney in private practice in Chicago.
The U.S. Constitution states that the Senate decides the qualifications of its members. But if the Senate blocked the appointment, the case could likely end up in court.
In 1969, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the House of Representatives could not bar a member from serving, but could expel the member with a two-thirds majority vote.
(Editing by Peter Bohan and Doina Chiacu)