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Brief of the Week January 12


THE BURRIS CAVE: Days after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D.-Nev.) insisted that no one appointed by embattled Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich would ever be seated in the U.S. Senate, Reid and other Democratic senators began to come around last week and set the stage for Roland Burris to assume the Senate seat of Barack Obama. Along with employing personal charm in meetings with Reid and his colleagues, former Illinois Atty. Gen. Roland Burris also demonstrated that he knows how to play hard-ball in the style of the Chicago Democratic machine he and Obama came up through. First, his supporters trotted out Rep. Bobby Rush (D.-Ill.), a onetime Black Panther who likened Reid and other senators to George Wallace and notorious Birmingham Police Chief Bull Connor for keeping the 71-year-old Burris from becoming the lone African-American in the Senate. Then the Congressional Black Caucus (which includes 41 Democrats) voted unanimously to back Burris’ claim to the seat. On the day that new lawmakers were sworn in, Obama — who had said two weeks ago that Senate Democrats “cannot accept an appointment made by a governor who is accused of selling this very Senate seat” — also caved and told reporters that seating Burris was “a Senate matter” and he would work with Burris if he was seated. At this point, Reid has said that if Burris testifies there was no impropriety in his appointment and the Illinoisan gets a pass from the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, he will be seated. As for the suggestion from Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D.-Calif.) that he promise not to run in 2010 if seated, Burris, shunted it aside by telling reporters: “Let me get my Senate legs under me and get in and raise some money to pay for all this stuff we’ve been doing and figure out that once we get in and get settled and learn where the bathrooms are.” (Easy: Each senator’s office has one.)