Durbin: Burris Rejection ‘Not About Race’

By Jennifer Parker

Jan 4, 2009 10:12am

I asked Democratic whip Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois this morning what happens when Roland Burris comes to Washington, DC this week to claim the Senate seat he thinks is his?

"I’ve know Roland Burris for over 30 years," Durbin told me on "This Week.’  "No one’s raised any questions about his integrity or his personal background. It’s a question about the process."

Durbin said while disgraced Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich has the state constitutional authority to fill President-Elect Barack Obama’s senate seat vacancy, the U.S. Senate has the U.S. constitutional responsibility to decide if Burris was chosen in a responsible way.

"Rod Blagojevich has brought questions, raised questions on how this process unfolded," Durbin said, "not reflecting personally on Roland Burris but to make sure that in the end, the person representing the state of Illinois, serving with me in the United States Senate was brought to that position responsibly."

Durbin said unlike Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu, Burris won’t be seated provisionally.

"In her case it was a matter of counting the votes," Durbin said, "In Illinois, sadly, because of the allegations against Gov. Blagojevich, there’s a question of corruption."

Durbin defended Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid against reports in the Chicago Sun-Times that Reid advised Blagojevich not to pick African American members of Congress.

"It is an outrage that the Blagojevich people in the last days of their administration facing impeachment in Springfield are now flailing in every direction," Durbin said. "Harry Reid did what anyone would have done as majority leader in the Senate. He called the governor to discuss filling the vacancy."

"The bottom line is this: this is not about race," Durbin said. "We have a proud record in the land of Lincoln of electing African American candidates to statewide office. There is no question about race. When we said at the beginning, Democratic senators said that we are not going to seat an appointment from Gov. Blagojevich it was before he had chosen anyone, black white or brown. So it has nothing to do with race."

–George Stephanopoulos

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