Burris Getting Closer to Obama's Senate Seat

In politics, never say never.

Conversations among Senate Democrats today could lead to a deal to allow Roland Burris to take the Illinois Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama, despite the Democrats' statements last week that they would block the man handpicked by the state's scandal-stained governor.

A Democratic source told ABC News that Obama talked to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., about Burris on Monday and urged him to come to "an amicable resolution" with Burris.

Reid and Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., the senior senator from Illinois, said this morning that Burris was not admitted to the Senate floor Tuesday because he lacked the signature of Illinois' secretary of state on his appointment certificate.

"People ask a lot of times why we have to do various things procedurally here in the Senate," Reid said. "It's because we're the Senate; that's how we operate."

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At another press conference later this afternoon, Reid and Durbin attempted to steer the conversation to their plans for passing legislation this year, but reporters questions continued to focus on Burris and whether he will be seated.

One reporter asked the Democratic leaders if they had been outfoxed by the Illinois governor?

"How are we supposed to react? We reacted in a very reasonable way," Reid answered.

They insisted that the onus is on Burris to make clear that this appointment is not tainted by the political scandal surrounding his appointer, Reid said.

"The senator from Illinois has to satisfy not only us, but the people of Illinois, that this is a fair deal," Reid added. "And that's what we're working on right now."

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Reid and Durbin's argument -- that they have thus far blocked Burris from the Senate floor because his appointment lacks the signature of the secretary of the state of Illinois -- was challenged today.

This afternoon, Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White told a Chicago radio station that his signature was "not required" for the U.S. Senate to seat Burris, and he agreed with the suggestion that the U.S. Senate was making Burris a "fall guy."

White and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan responded to Burris' motion with the Illinois Supreme Court to order White to sign and seal his appointment to the U.S. Senate by Blagojevich, saying that the secretary's signature is not required by law to seat Burris in the Senate and that it is only recommended by a Senate rule.

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"The Secretary has performed all of his legal duties regarding the Burris appointment," the filing read. "Nothing remains to be done by the Secretary to complete the appointment process and to enable the U.S. Senate to seat Burris. ... The Secretary has performed all of his legal duties and the ultimate determination whether to seat petitioner Burris lies with the U.S. Senate. That, too, is where the petitioners' remedy lies."

Burris, who was tapped by Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich to fill the vacancy, returned to Capitol Hill today after he was barred from entering the Senate floor Tuesday.

Burris met with Reid and Durbin at 10:30 a.m. today to work out a deal that would pave the way for Illinois' first black attorney general to step into the vacant Senate seat.

In a press conference this afternoon, Burris said he was pleased with the meeting and denied having any information about Blagojevich's wiretapping scandal.

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