Senate Democrats beat a hasty retreat Wednesday from their rejection of Roland Burris as President-elect Barack Obama's successor, yielding to pressure from Obama himself and from senators irked that the standoff was draining attention and putting them in a bad light. Burris said with a smile he expected to join them "very shortly."
Senate Democrats are looking for ways to defuse the standoff that has denied Roland Burris the vacated Senate seat of President-elect Barack Obama of Illinois, but maybe not much longer.
While Burris' paperwork was rejected at the opening of the 111th Congress, he was scheduled to meet Wednesday with the Senate's top two Democrats — Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and assistant leader Dick Durbin of Illinois.
Roland Burris tried to take President-elect Barack Obama's Illinois Senate seat Tuesday but failed in a scripted piece of political theater staged just before the opening of the 111th Congress. "Mr. Burris is not in possession of the necessary credentials from the state of Illinois," declared Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.
Burris, 71, earlier confirmed that Secretary of the Senate Nancy Erickson had informed him in a private meeting that his credentials lacked a required signature and his state's seal.
The Democratic-dominated Congress convenes Tuesday to confront perhaps the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression and to grapple with a hugely ambitious agenda set by President-elect Barack Obama.
The opening day of a two-year session is typically more ceremony than substance, and Congress often recesses until the new president takes office or after the State of the Union address at the end of January.
Although he calls himself a senator, Roland Burris has found little support among fellow Democrats in his effort to take the Senate seat to which embattled Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich appointed him.
The Senate was scheduled to convene at noon Tuesday with its newest members. Yet the controversy over the appointment of Burris by a governor accused of trying to sell the old seat of President-elect Barack Obama and the ongoing dispute over election results in Minnesota practically guaranteed that both seats would remain empty by day's end.
The morning after the Nov. 4 election, Norm Coleman stood before TV cameras, declared victory in Minnesota's U.S. Senate election and said that if he were opponent Al Franken he'd "step aside."
Two months later, Coleman finds himself down by nearly the same margin he appeared to hold over Franken that day. His lawyers said Coleman — who later expressed regret at that post-election remark — is not ready to step aside, vowing a lawsuit that's likely to keep the race in limbo for several more months.
The state Canvassing Board was poised to certify the results of the recount in Minnesota's grueling Senate election in Al Franken's favor — but that doesn't mean the race is definitely over.
The board was to meet Monday and was expected to declare which candidate received the most overall votes from nearly 3 million ballots cast. The latest numbers showed Franken, a Democrat, with a 225-vote lead over Republican Sen. Norm Coleman, who led Franken on election night.
Senate Democratic leaders plan to grant few if any privileges next week to Roland Burris, the man picked by Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich to represent the state in the Senate, even if Burris arrives on Capitol Hill with the proper credentials.
Senate officials involved in the tangle of legal and logistical planning said Friday that a Democrat will object to Burris being duly sworn with the rest of his class and will propose that his credentials be reviewed for a period of time by the Rules Committee.
Former Democratic senator Claiborne Pell, who championed the Pell grant program for college students, died Thursday at his Newport, Rhode Island home after a long battle with Parkinson's disease, US media said. He was 90.
Pell served as Rhode Island senator from 1961 until his retirement in 1997, two years after he announced he had contracted the debilitating disease.
Pell was chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee from 1987 to 1994 and was named US delegate to the United Nations shortly before he retired.
Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich has named a successor to fill Barack Obama's Senate seat, but Democratic leaders who control the Senate say they will refuse to seat Blagojevich's pick, former state Attorney General Roland Burris.
Here are some questions and answers about the power of the Senate to seat Obama's successor.
Q: What is the Senate's authority to seat or not seat an appointee like Burris?