Roland Burris Appointed To Obama's Senate Seat
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COHEN: First though, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich has named his choice for President-elect Barack Obama's now-vacant U.S. Senate seat. Blagojevich is appointing the state's former attorney general. He's 71-year-old Roland Burris. Here is Governor Blagojevich speaking about this decision earlier this afternoon in Chicago.
ROD BLAGOJEVICH: He will be a great United States senator. And now, I'd like to ask everyone to do one last thing. Please, don't allow the allegations against me to taint this good and honest man.
COHEN: Governor Rod Blagojevich making reference there to allegations that he tried to sell Barack Obama's former Senate seat to the highest bidder. For more on today's announcement, we're joined my NPR's David Schaper. And, David, this choice to replace Barack Obama of Roland Burris, tell us a little bit about him. Who is he?
DAVID SCHAPER: So he had a futile record in the last, you know, decade or decade and a half, but he is somebody who's well known and well liked by most people in Illinois, and it's probably a pretty safe choice for Blagojevich, if he's allowed to be seated in the U.S. Senate, which I think there's a lot of question about still.
COHEN: We'll get to that in just a moment. First, let's speak a little bit about Roland Burris. He actually spoke at today's press conference. What did he have to say about the announcement?
SCHAPER: And Mr. Burris appeared to be in line with the governor's thinking, and that is that it's too critical a time for the state to go many, many months possibly without a U.S. senator and so that the position needs to be filled by somebody who's got a lengthy career of public service and despite the allegations against the governor doesn't mind being appointed by this governor to fill up the remainder of Barack Obama's Senate term.
COHEN: Democratic leaders in the Senate have said they won't seat anyone appointed by Governor Rod Blagojevich, and the secretary of state there in Illinois says he won't even accept the paperwork. So what happens from here, David?
SCHAPER: But, you know, the words of Harry Reid again today are clear that they're not going to accept this nomination, and Jesse White, who is also a very prominent African-American politician in the state of Illinois, the secretary of state, said he's not even going to accept the paperwork. So that leaves a lot of questions still up in the air as to what happens with the appointment going forward.
COHEN: NPR's David Schaper talking about the announcement today from Governor Rod Blagojevich that he has picked Rolland Burris to fill the Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama. Thank you, David.
SCHAPER: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.