Outrage Greets Blagojevich Power Play

State and federal lawmkers pledge governor's pick won't make it to the Senate.

Dec. 30, 2008— -- Before embattled Gov. Rod Blagojevich even had the chance to officially announce his pick to take the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President-elect Obama, lawmakers blunted the power play, insisting they won't seat Roland Burris.

Blagojevich, who was arrested earlier this month on federal corruption charges and faces possible impeachment, announced at a Tuesday afternoon press conference in Chicago that he had tapped former Illinois attorney general and fellow Democrat Roland Burris for Obama's seat.

But before the two men took to the podium, lawmakers from the Illinois state capital of Springfield to Capitol Hill in Washington affirmed they will not recognize any Blagojevich pick.

"It is truly regrettable that, despite requests from all 50 Democratic senators and public officials throughout Illinois, Gov. Blagojevich would take the imprudent step of appointing someone to the United States Senate who would serve under a shadow and be plagued by questions of impropriety," Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada and Majority Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois said in a written statement.

The lawmakers said their decision is not a reflection on Burris, but, instead, of the current situation.

"Anyone appointed by Gov. Blagojevich cannot be an effective representative of the people of Illinois and, as we have said, will not be seated by the Democratic Caucus," they claimed.

Blagojevich is under scrutiny from federal prosecutors and investigators, who say they taped phone conversations in which he allegedly attempted to sell the U.S. Senate seat vacated by President-elect Obama, and solicit the firing of members of the Chicago Tribune's editorial board who had been critical of him.

Despite the outcry, Burris got a high-profile endorsement when civil rights leader Rep. Bobby Rush, D-Ill., unexpectedly joined Blagojevich and Burris at the press conference podium and challenged the Senate to accept the pick.

"I will ask you to not hang and lynch the appointee as you try to castigate the appointer. Separate, if you will, the appointee from the [appointer]. ... Burris is worthy," Rush said.

Rush had not sought appointment to the Senate seat himself, but did call on Blagojevich to appoint an African American to replace Obama.

Obama, until his election to the White House, was the only black member of the U.S. Senate and only the third African American to serve in the nation's highest legislative chamber since Reconstruction.

Rush said he will rally the Congressional Black Caucus around Burris and lobby hard to force Durbin and others to accept the appointment.

Blago Defies Senate, Appoints Obama Replacement

Unfazed by the lawmakers' statements, Blagojevich insisted that his position as governor requires him to make an appointment, or else "the people of Illinois will be deprived of their appropriate voice and vote in the United States Senate."

Blagojevich also said he is "absolutely confident and certain" that the Senate will seat Burris, who, he said, "has unquestioned integrity, extensive experience, and is a wise and distinguished senior statesman of Illinois."

In a press conference immediately following -- and in the same room as -- the Blagojevich media event, Illinois' Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn attacked the governor's appointment, calling the action "provocative" and an "insult to the people of Illinois."

"Rod Blagojevich has unclean hands and he should not be able to make an appointment to any office at all," he said.

Quinn also urged the legislature to quickly impeach the governor.

"It's time that he get the message that the people of Illinois will not tolerate his antics anymore," he said.

The day after his arrest earlier this month, Senate Democrats warned Blagojevich of their intentions in a letter to the governor.

"Please understand that should you decide to ignore the request of the Senate Democratic Caucus and make an appointment, we would be forced to exercise our Constitutional authority under Article I, Section 5, to determine whether such a person should be seated," the Dec. 10 letter, signed by all 50 Democratic senators, stated.

That particular section of the Constitution spells out the legislative body's authority to govern itself, noting in part that both the House and Senate "shall be the judge of the elections, returns and qualifications of its own members."

Embattled Illinois Governor Faces Possible Impeachment

The Illinois House of Representatives has convened a special investigative committee to determine whether there are grounds to impeach Blagojevich.

Rep. Jim Durkin, the top Republican on the committee, told ABC News that he has faxed a letter to Burris, asking him not to accept the appointment.

"And if he does accept it, I will demand his presence before the special investigating committee regarding the circumstances of his appointment," he added.

Durkin said, "The process is tainted, it stinks," but added that he believes Burris is "a man of great character" who "has served the state well."

The Republican warned, however, that Burris' image "will be tarnished" if he accepts the Senate post.

Durkin said that he isn't sure if the legislature can block the appointment, but that the secretary of state could refuse to certify the action.

Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White, a Democrat, issued a statement saying that he could not "co-sign a document that certifies any appointment by Rod Blagojevich" for the vacant seat.

"Although I have respect for former Attorney General Roland Burris, because of the current cloud of controversy surrounding the governor, I cannot accept the document."

ABC News' Matthew Jaffe contributed to this report.

Top Stories

Top Stories

Top Stories

Top Stories

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events