Burris Stands Firm Despite Urging of Illinois Governor
Saturday, February 21, 2009; Page A02
CHICAGO, Feb. 20 -- Sen. Roland W. Burris (D-Ill.) has no intention of quitting, his spokesman said Friday, despite a call for his resignation from Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (D) and a suggestion from White House spokesman Robert Gibbs that Burris ponder "what lies in his future."
Quinn called Burris a "wonderful human being" and a "dear friend" but said the embattled senator should "act as quickly as possible for the best interests of Illinois" and step down from the seat he has occupied since Jan. 15.
"To step aside would be a heroic act," Quinn told reporters in Chicago, "and I ask Roland to do it."
Burris, elected to four terms in statewide office, now appears all but alone in his fight to keep his job. He canceled all public events Thursday to confer with friends and stayed mostly out of view on Friday, which was to have been the fifth day of a statewide listening tour.
Spokesman Jim O'Connor said that Burris intends to return to Washington next week and get to work on Senate business.
"Senator Burris has again asked the public and elected officials to stop their rush to judgment and to allow all the facts to come out," O'Connor said. "There is a legal process moving forward, and he has promised to fully cooperate."
When Burris reaches Washington, he will be without his temporary chief of staff, Darrel Thompson, who quit Friday. He had been on loan from the office of Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.).
The Senate ethics committee and the Sangamon County state's attorney are investigating Burris's shifting statements -- three of them under oath -- about his talks with associates of Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who appointed him on Dec. 28. Blagojevich has since been impeached.
Although Burris said in a Jan. 5 affidavit that he had not spoken with Blagojevich or any of his representatives about the Senate seat, his story has since evolved. He said this week that he spoke with at least five Blagojevich associates and tried to raise money for the then-governor while Burris was seeking the Senate appointment.
Gibbs noted the shifting accounts and signaled President Obama's displeasure. He said Burris should take time this weekend to see if he can "come up with an explanation that satisfies."
At a Chicago news conference, Quinn said Burris made "a big mistake, a gigantic mistake" in accepting the appointment three weeks after Blagojevich had been arrested on federal corruption charges.
"I believe Illinois is entitled to two senators like any other state. Now we have a senator with a cloud over his head," said Quinn, who supports new legislation that would create a special election to fill the seat if Burris departs.