Burris Testifies Amid Illinois Governor Impeachment Moves

The special Illinois House committee investigating Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich has unanimously recommended that the full House impeach Blagojevich for "abuse of power."

The committee cites a litany of corruption allegations, including the attempted sale of President-elect Barack Obama's vacated U.S. Senate seat, extortion of Children's Memorial Hospital, extortion of the Chicago Tribune, and various other "pay to play" schemes.

The Illinois House, which has been called back to a special session, will now consider impeachment as early as Friday.

If the House votes to impeach, the state Senate then would conduct a trial presided over by the chief justice of the Illinois Supreme Court. That trial could begin as early as Jan. 26.

In the state Senate trial, impeachment managers and Blagojevich would have the opportunity to present witnesses and evidence.

If convicted by the Illinois Senate, Blagojevich would be removed from office and Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn would become acting governor.

Earlier Thursday, former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris told state lawmakers investigating the possible impeachment that he did not act unethically in being appointed to the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Obama.

"I have been in government for 20 years and never participated in anybody's quid pro quo," Burris said.

Blagojevich was arrested Dec. 9 on corruption charges. He tapped Burris to fill the seat just after Christmas.

Burris also told the committee today that he first became interested in filling the U.S. Senate seat "around the time President-elect Obama won the Democratic primary for president."

Upon being approached to fill the seat amid the allegations involving the governor, Burris said he was "surprised" and took the weekend to think it over and consult with friends before accepting the appointment.

When asked whether Blagojevich should resign, Burris repeatedly said, "I have no authority over the governor." As he has said before, Burris told the panel that Blagojevich appointed him according to law.

Before hearing from Burris, the Illinois legislative panel released a draft report Thursday morning recommending that the state's House of Representatives vote on whether to impeach Blagojevich.

"The Special Investigative Committee for the Illinois House of Representatives, 95th General Assembly finds that the totality of the evidence warrants the impeachment of the Governor for cause," the proposed report states. "The Committee, therefore, recommends that the House consider an Article of Impeachment against the Governor."

Today Blagojevich's spokesman, Lucio Guerrero, said he did not yet have any comment on the draft report.

The panel's chairwoman, Illinois Democratic Rep. Barbara Currie of the 25th District, told ABC News that the committee wants to obtain federal wiretap recordings of Blagojevich as soon as possible, but if it can't get that additional evidence, Currie anticipates the committee will act on the draft report this afternoon.

If the committee finalizes the report, the full House will vote on the governor's impeachment.

The recommendation is the latest advance in the drama surrounding Obama's former Senate seat.

Currie told ABC News Tuesday she did not want Burris to testify but agreed to his appearance because of Republican requests.

"I assume Roland will inform us he's pure as the driven snow," she said. "I expect the GOP will question him, and I wouldn't be surprised if they picked up on the fact that he and his firm had made contributions to the governor's campaign coffers and also won some state business. But I don't think it'll be at all compelling."

Legal Questions About Seating Burris

Burris was denied the right to be seated in the Senate Tuesday amid legal questions over being hand-picked by the state's scandal-stained governor. But Wednesday, Illinois' first black attorney generalsaw his prospects looking better after returning to Capitol Hill for conversations with Senate Democratic leaders.

"Roland Burris to me appears to be candid and forthright. ... He is not trying to avoid any responsibility or hide anything. ... We don't have a problem with him as an individual," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. "[But] we want to do what we can do to make sure that everything that has been done in the Blagojevich hours is transparent."

A Democratic source also told ABC News that Obama talked to Reid about Burris 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 Wednesday that Burris was not admitted to the Senate floor Tuesday because he lacked the signature of Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White on his appointment certificate.

Now the Illinois Supreme Court considers Burris' legal right to fill the Senate seat and examines whether it should accept his motion to force White to sign his certificate, a move that would advance his entry into the Senate.

Even after that, Reid has said he wants the full Senate to vote on whether to give Burris the seat.

Still, Reid and Durbin's argument was challenged Wednesday when White told a Chicago radio station that his signature was "not required" for the U.S. Senate to seat Burris. White agreed with the suggestion that the U.S. Senate was making Burris a "fall guy."

White, along with Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, has made that argument in writing to the state Supreme Court, stating in the filing that White's signature is not required by law but only recommended by a Senate rule.

"The secretary has performed all of his legal duties and the ultimate determination whether to seat petitioner Burris lies with the U.S. Senate," the filing stated. "That, too, is where the petitioners' remedy lies."

A release from Madigan's office likewise said, "The decision to treat the U.S. Senate's "recommended" form as a legal requirement is a decision of the U.S. Senate," it concludes. "It remains up to the U.S. Senate to seat Mr. Burris."

Election law attorneys have said that senators may not have the constitutional power to refuse to admit Burris into the Senate without some indication that his appointment was corrupt.

Meantime, Reid and Durbin 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 said. "And that's what we're working on right now."

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

Responding to questions on whether supporters had actually made calls to Blagojevich on his behalf, Burris laughingly responded, "If they did, it was certainly no 'pay to play' involved, because I don't have no money."

ABC News' Jonathan Karl, Z. Byron Wolf, Russell Goldman and Huma Khan contributed to the report.